You never know what to expect when reading a book by Elizabeth Bear, and All the Windwracked Stars is no exception. This is a post-apocalyptic novel centered around figures of Norse mythology who are trying their best to stave off the next round of apocalyptic disasters. The main character is an immortal who has managed to keep her naiveté mainly because she believes in black and white and doesn’t understand everything that has been happening around her.
Muire wants to help, but she doesn’t have much left. Her god has abandoned her, her comrades all died thousands of years ago in a pointless battle, and she carries the guilt of her survival as a weight on her shoulders. Or at least all that is what she believes to be true.
This story brings us to the brink of understanding and then rips everything away in favor of a new understanding that Muire, and therefore us, could not have believed possible. More than changing the shades of black and white, this novel focuses on the influence of life, of people, of circumstance on what the characters can become. It offers changes of redemption and reveals horrifying truths.
Here is where Bear’s talents as a storyteller shine: Despite several twists in which everything known is unknown, everything set is turned on its head, she never once lost me. I could see the trail, or if I couldn’t, the new information came in such a way that it made sense. Hand in hand I learned what Muire did, and suffered the truth with her. This is no simple tale. It has layer upon layer that absorbs you and makes you want more even though the book begins at the end of the world. Luckily, there are additional novels in this series, as strange as that may seem, because this is too interesting a world to visit in a single novel.