The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Book of the Ice (Book #3 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 544 pages (Hardcover edition)
Published: 26th April 2022 by Ace (US) & 28th April 2022 by HarperVoyager (UK)
Mark Lawrence was once asked in an interview if he was a planter or a pantser—whether he planned his stories far out in advance or flew by the seat of his pants—and he described himself as the latter. After finishing The Girl and the Moon, it’s getting harder and harder to believe him. The final chapter of the Book of the Ice series not only caps the trilogy with an exceptionally strong finish but it also feels like an exclamation mark on his entire body of work, culminating all the major storylines from his other series throughout his publishing career into an Avengers: Endgame-style finale filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope.
Books one and two spoilers ahead.
After escaping Black Rock, traversing the ice, and making their way through a warp gate, Yaz, Theus, Quina, Thurin, Mali, and Erris have found themselves inside Sweet Mercy Convent, awaiting trial for theft and murder, thanks to the treacherous Eular. Right out of the … ahem… gate, the first few chapters place our heroes under heavy duress and the book is basically unputdownable until the opening sequence is resolved. Mark has a talent for strong openings, but this is his fastest, most exciting, highest-stakes opening sequence out of any of his novels, full-stop. The second quarter of the novel slows things down a bit as the troupe gets situated into their new surroundings, and the story does start to feel like it loses a bit of direction, as the characters don’t really know the best path to take. That quickly changes around the halfway mark, as there is a dramatic shift, several plot twists, some surprising character choices, and we’re off to the races until the rollercoaster ending.
The last line of dialogue feels like the both the symbolic and definitive end to the Broken Empire & Abeth saga, with a clear message that the last pages of this universe have been written, and something else entirely is on the horizon for Mark’s next projects. I get a sense that for the first time it will be unlinked to anything else he’s written before. If true, I’ll be sad to see this incredible world go, but it has been concluded with the utmost care for its characters and environment.
There was one moment in the closing half when a few lines of dialogue casually dropped, and it changed everything. Careful readers and longtime fans will pick up on the reference and will have their perspective on the whole trilogy re-evaluated, though it is possible to miss! Looking back, knowing what I know now, I am seeing the clues doled out along the way. I like to think I’m good at picking up on these things, but this time I was blindsided by the revelation and absolutely adored it. It’s rare to feel such an unexpected payoff that feels so earned and justified, and Lawrence pulled it off beautifully.
The Book of the Ice series is less of a sequel series than a companion series to The Book of the Ancestor, and strangely enough, I think that can be said for all of Mark’s series. Even though they take place at different points along the same timeline, there’s a fair argument that a new and thrilling experience can be gleaned by reading any of his series in any order you choose. I read them in order of publication, but I’m now curious at the different perspective I’d have gained if I read them in a different order. It’s a testament to Mark’s jazz-like style of storytelling – sometimes it’s the words not said that speak loudest – which adds to the mystique of each new volume’s release.
The Girl and the Moon is not only an exciting and rewarding finish to Yaz’s saga, but also a love letter to the universe and the fans who have appreciated its construction over the years. It is a rare book that makes its preceding books even better.