Star Mother


Charlie N. Holmberg


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

February 21, 2022

believe Star Mother is the fourth Charlie Holmberg novel that I have read, and it is my favorite one so far. She is getting better and better at writing, and the good news is that there will soon be a sequel, Star Father, presumably based upon the same characters in the same fantasy universe.

Ceris Wenden is a young, adventurous woman approaching her twentieth birthday. She is living in the small village of Endwever, an unremarkable place in the forests of Helchanar. Nothing much happens in her timeless hometown, but Ceris plays pranks on the other villagers, runs through the forest in a most unlady-like manner, and has adventures with her younger sister, Idlysi. Ceris has been betrothed to Caen for years now, and soon they will be old enough to marry. But although Ceris is madly in love with Caen, it seems that Caen's affections are reserved for another girl, Anya.

Ceris' world is ruled by gods similar to the Greek pantheon. The mighty lord of the gods is the Sun God, and beneath him are other powerful gods like the Moon and Mother Earth, and lower still are the magical godlings. Temples are built in honor of the Sun God. On each of these cathedrals is a spire, and at the top of the spire is a bowl of oil and wood that has never been lit. One day, the Sun God ignites the torch, and the villagers of Endwever are awed to realize the implications. Everything in the universe is powered by starlight, starlight nourishes even the mighty Sun God himself. If one of the stars should die, then another star must be born and placed in the night sky to take its place. The flaming torch at the top of the cathedral means that the Sun God has selected Endwever to provide him with the mortal woman who will birth the new star. It is an astonishing honor. The only downside is that when a mortal woman bears a star child, the woman inevitably perishes. Her body is returned to her home town, along with honor and glory and prestige for all the village.

It is unthinkable that the Sun God be denied, and yet none of the village woman volunteer. The council is convened, and two woman are considered possible candidates - Anya and Gretcha. Ceris realizes that Caen does not love her, but instead pines for Anya, and so she decides to make a gesture that will forever earn his love, even though she shall perish. Ceris decides to volunteer, even though it is her doom.

Holmberg does a great job at depicting the nine months Ceris spends in the heavens in the magical palace of the Sun God. Her charming personality wins over the godlings assigned to attend her, Elta and Fosii. The Sun God himself is rarely present, as he is involved in his daily task of bringing light to the Earth. Also, it turns out that the Sun God is engaged in an ages-long battle with the Moon. Ceris explores the magical realm, but her nine months pass swiftly, and suddenly the first labor pangs are upon her. The star child is born and placed in the heavens.

But Ceris does not perish.

All are amazed. Even the Sun God can offer no explanation for Ceris' unprecedented survival. No other Star Mother has ever survived the incredibly painful birthing of a star. Her duty is done. Ceris' asks the Sun God if she might be returned to her village. The Sun God grants her wish. Ceris finds herself back in Endwever, and is astonished to learn that not nine months, but 700 years have elapsed since she left. A giant carved sculpture of her stands in the cathedral. Everyone she knew has long since been buried.

The bulk of the novel describes Ceris' adventures upon her return to Earth. Ceris decides to journey to the great city of Nediah, because an ancient book of lineages shows that the descendants of her sisters possibly reside there under the family name of Parros. Ceris decides to meet these distant relatives, to see if she can construct any sort of family and sense of belonging.

Star Mother succeeds because Ceris is a likeable character. She is determined and smart, and generous and kind as well. She doesn't want to be worshipped as a Star Mother, though the current villagers in Endwever would gladly do exactly that. Ceris learns more about the conflicts between the gods, and she encounters some of the godlings the stalk Mother Earth. I thought it was a well told tale, and I hope I find time to read the sequel.