Book Review: Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Today’s Brew of Choice: cold brew with brown sugar and oat milk!

Good morning! Happy last day of JUNE! You know what that means? The days are getting shorter and one day we will get back to being inside and under cozy blankets with books more. Did I ever mention to you all that I am NOT a summer girl? Although I’ve been driving on the coast a lot recently, and it is indeed beautiful in the summer! I hope you are thriving out there in this heatwave or at least trying to. If it is summer for you, that is. Regardless, I think that might explain my mood for creepy books recently. I am desperate for the fall to come. So please enjoy yet another scary book review from me! I’m growing and learning to handle horror much better!

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Title: Star Eater
Author: Kerstin Hall
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publication date: June 22, 2021
Genre: Fantasy horror, LGBTQ+, Speculative fiction

Incredibly scary fantasy horror with creepy nuns and chilling martyrdoms

At a glance: Elfreda will do anything to avoid continuing the horrific and gruesome bloodline of the Sisterhood of Aytrium. Even trust a mysterious cabal that convinces her to rise the ranks to fight from the inside.

  • 🏳️‍🌈 Bisexual MC
  • 💀 Dark Content
  • 🩸 Gore
  • 💭 Speculative Fiction

Read this if… you want a scary horror book with cannibal nuns and zombifying STDs, if you love gore in your horror, or if you love unique worldbuilding in your horror

Diversity Representation: Bisexual Protagonist, mostly lesbian or bisexual supporting cast

Content Warnings: Gore, cannibalism, dubious sexual consent, death, mutilation, torture, violence, conspiracy,

Book Review

Creepy, unsettling, gory, glamorous, deceitful, magical, and full of intrigue

Star Eater was an unsettling horror that was surprisingly easy for me to stomach. I thought it was more gory than scary, which is apparently much easier for me to stomach. I’m working on growing into being confident in reading horror, and this one was definitely a good step. I loved the way the mood shifted back and forth to make you uneasy rather than using too many jump tactics. It was so impressive and something I’ve never seen before!

Quick Summary: Elfreda is determined to get out of her gruesome life as an acolyte of the Sisterhood of Aytrium at whatever the cost. One day, as she is out in the town she is unwittingly swept up into a secret meeting with the head of a secret organization that seems to undermine the Sisterhood. Suddenly Elfreda is swept into a world of societal politics, glamorous parties, and what seems to be a world much more complicated than she knew.

The number one thing that I couldn’t stop thinking about in this book was the way that the author seamlessly flips between creepy gore to normal teenager life. I was uneasy half the time while reading this book because of it. I absolutely love the way it was done. It made for an atmosphere that we could almost graze over the gore without it needing to be too gross but still feel the same amount of unease. It really allowed to gently guide you into the gore and horror. It was honestly so impressive and it is a strategy that I don’t think I’ve seen in a book before. Stunning.

The descriptions of this book really stood out as well. Though it didn’t feel like it was written to use gore as a tactic to scare you, the descriptions were still very vivid and immersive. The way that Hall was able to change the tone between more “normal” gruesome things to more “horrifying” gruesome things was unbelievable. What I mean is there were descriptions of gore that felt like they were just a normal part of life, and there were also descriptions of gore (sometimes even less gross) that were absolutely chilling. Depending on what was happening in the book. I’m very impressed by the way the author managed to convey such different tones while describing such gruesome things.

As for the story, I loved the intrigue. It was so creepy but had a dash of glamorous, royal vibes. The book is full of such interesting and unique dichotomies that it’s hard to look away. It is so well balanced. I loved the situation Elfreda was put in because it allowed us to see so much more depth within the society. I also loved the way that society was so secretive because it added so much mystery and interest to the world. Overall, this book was pretty good! It was definitely a little too scary for me, but Hall really eased me into it well.

Summing it all up

Star Eater is all at once gruesome, horrifying, fun, and glamorous. Kerstin Hall bounces between such different tones, moods, and topics in such a unique and impressive way. It had me in awe the whole time. It was a little too scary for me, but Hall guided me into the growing scare level very well!

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Book Club Questions:
Star Eater

My hope with discussion questions is that it will encourage people to read books with friends. I hope that book besties and book clubs will find it easier to diversify their bookshelf and their book selections. Hopefully, these encourage discussion!

  • How did you feel the relationships and crushes were handled in this book? Do you hope to see more or less romantic feelings presented in this way in literature?
  • For those of you who are good with horror books, how well did this book meet your expectations for horror? In contrast, for those who are a little more scared by horror books, how well were you able to handle this book? Compare answers and discuss how well Kerstin Hall appealed to both audiences.
  • Did you have any questions about the world-building or did you think everything was explained sufficiently? Why? Were there any specifics from the world-building that you loved/hated?
  • How did you feel the tone of the story changed throughout the book? Was it able to transition well between different tones and moods?

About the Author

Kerstin Hall is a writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She completed her undergraduate studies in journalism at Rhodes University and, as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, continued with a Masters degree at the University of Cape Town. Her short fiction has been published by Strange Horizons, and she is a first reader for Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She also enjoys photography. You can contact her via Twitter at @Kerstin__Hall or by filling in the contact form below.

Let’s Chat!

✨ My blogger friends: Were you denied your first ARC like me?
✨ What is the creepiest horror you’ve read recently? It should be this one.
✨ Is this in your to-read pile? Someone yell about it with me!

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Want More Diverse Book Recommendations?

Check out the rest of my blog! I’m dedicated to sharing books with you that include diversity, so feel comfortable that any books on Bookish Brews will include some diversity.

If you liked this review or thought you might like this book, check out some of my other reviews for books with similar scary, mystery, conspiracy moods:

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Cannibal nuns and STDs that turn men into monsters?! Is it spooky season already?

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*I received this book for free and am leaving this review voluntarily*