The novel’s premise is intriguing, no doubt about it. But what surprised and delighted me most was Hall’s wonderful writing, the rich detail of the world she’s built. Her main characters, especially El, Millie and Finn, are vivid, passionate, flawed yet righteous individuals. The Reverends --- the villainous Sisters, as well as the kind, bossy ones --- are almost as compelling. Hall’s descriptive powers stunned me: lush, sensuous, mood-establishing passages that put us right smack in the middle of Elfreda’s brain, or a physical place.
Engrossing, horrifying, and vivid, Kerstin Hall’s debut novel Star Eater is a hard one to talk about. This is in part simply because there’s so much there there—so much inventive worldbuilding, so much carefully structured power, so many things I want to exclaim over. As with many complicated things, it’s occasionally boiled down to something both accurate and not ... Star Eater expects you to pay attention from the very first scene, when we meet Acolyte Elfreda Raughn in the midst of what ought to be a typical day ... There are no infodumps here, but there is a lot of backstory, carefully woven into the plot and revealed gradually as Elfreda is swept up into a complicated conspiracy that reaches to the very center of her world.
Hall’s full-length fantasy debut stumbles over its many plot twists as a young woman becomes entangled in a scheme to undermine the ruling order ... Hall’s prose is vivid and the characterization is incisive as Elfreda’s involvement with the insurrectionists grows and ultimately places a target on her back, but a pile-up of minor plot swerves make for a bumpy reading experience. Insubstantial foreshadowing makes some of these surprises feel like they come out of nowhere while others manipulate insufficiently established loopholes in the rules of the world ... Readers who can forgive the flaws, however, will find this a powerful indictment of how power erodes ethics.