Let me start by saying that this review is long overdue. I'm typically a fast reader, but for a myriad of reasons, it has taken me an unbelievable amount of time to get to this point. But here I am...and I can't type these words fast enough.
This summer, I read The City of Snow and Stars by S.D. Howard.
I'll start by mentioning the world building. Howard has expressed his love of this particular part of storytelling, and it SHOWS. This world is intricate, with cultures, languages, political and social structures, religions...you name it. He wasn't kidding. He does this well, and THIS author was taking mental notes all along the way!
Next we could talk about the characters themselves and their well-constructed backstories. Trinia's story is particularly heartbreaking, and as the story progressed, my attachment to her grew stronger. She carried an immense amount of pain in her heart and mind, and I appreciated how Howard gave us glimpses into her mental anguish. As someone who's struggled most of my life with social anxiety, I can relate to the battle in the mind. The fight to silence those nagging thoughts and move forward in trust.
Then there was Údar. I have a soft spot for the long-grieving elder. That kind of sorrow, the kind that lingers, slowly transforming you into another creature entirely, really packs a punch. I deeply appreciated this characters arc, and might even say his was my favorite.
But the real story here is that of the author himself. He has allowed us to not only peek at the horrors he experienced during his upbringing, but to gaze wide-eyed at the full truth of it in order that others might experience freedom. There are few things more freeing than the sense that someone out there understands your pain. That they have walked a similar path and SEE YOU. And with the light of Christ, Howard has illuminated a very dark, very secretive and abusive reality, pouring beams of truth and love into someone's (many someones') pit of absolute despair.
These kinds of books are important. And while I might offer a caution, as this does deal with topics such as sexual abuse, physical and mental abuse, sex trafficking...I would also urge readers not to avoid these topics simply because they make you uncomfortable. This story may not be for everyone, and that's entirely understandable. But reading it, and the author's message at the start, just might serve to open our eyes to the suffering of others...and move us to act.
So yes this is a review, but it is also a resounding thank you. This book took an immense amount of courage, and I'm honored to have had the chance to read it.