An Accident of Stars. Book Review

Angry Robot. p/b. £8.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

When a stranger approaches Saffron in the school playground and saves her from the school bully, Saffron takes the stranger’s advice to heart and learns a valuable lesson – she will keep fighting. She wants to thank her saviour, searches for her, and then finds her along with a strange doorway. With a split second decision, she follows, regardless of where it will take her.

The portal leads to another world. A world which, for Saffron, will be life changing in so many ways. Painful ways. Ways which she cannot yet begin to grasp. Finding herself in the middle of a civil war she does not understand, amongst torn peoples who are so different from any in her experience, she may yet find that in some ways it is the similarities, rather than the differences to her earth and her life, that strike her the most.

Zechalia was born with mottled skin, which could be a blessing or a curse. It means that the sun will either smile on her or frown on her. Time will tell which, but either way her mother did not keep her around long enough to find out which. Now, Zech finds herself bonded to this new worldwalker in a way that will change her life more than she ever imagined too.

An Accident of Stars appears to be aimed at an adult audience, but with such a young main character leading much of the point of view narrative there is a juvenile feel to the story in the main, both in terms of what happens to Saffron and also in terms of her ability to process and learn from what happens to her. The result is that the catastrophic events that occur once she steps through the portal, and the awful things that have and continue to happen in the other world, are slightly sheltered from the reader, keeping the darker elements of modern fantasy mostly at bay.

This story has a more traditional feel and perhaps would sit better in the YA market; think traditional portal fantasy but crammed with modern themes. In fact Saffron’s initial journey strongly echoes Narnia – main character escapes imminent everyday threat in own world to plunge into the midst of huge otherworld events beyond own control or initial comprehension, but add in the role of women, sexuality, race and cultural barriers into the mix.

The first of Meadows’ The Manifold Worlds does leave the reader unsure of where the story will head next or who will be driving it, and that is an exciting element. Saffron is not the only point of view character here, and the others are just as well rounded and hint at deeper back stories, generally giving the impression of a capacity for greater conflicts and greater emotional journeys than she. A complex, richly depicted world lifts this story in places where it may otherwise have fallen a little flat.