Cover Image: The Symmetry of Stars

The Symmetry of Stars

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Member Reviews

The Symmetry of Stars by Alex Myers unfortunately has been one of the more disappointing books I've read recently. I simultaneously feel like I only finished it because I loved his last book, The Story of Silence, so much, but also was far harsher on this one than I may otherwise have been for the same reason. I also have to admit that I picked up The Symmetry of Stars without knowing much about it because I thought I'd like it as much as the author's previous book - but I think I liked that one for its story and themes more than Myers' own work now that I have read another one of his books. In some ways, The Symmetry of Stars addresses some similar motifs concerning nature and nurture as The Story of Silence did, showing parallels between the books, and letting them function almost as companion pieces of a sort. However, the tone in which they are written differs enormously, as does the manner in which the motif is addressed. While The Story of Silence did so almost whimsically through medieval romance, The Symmetry of Stars is a very philosophical book. It is wordy, and it seems to go in circles at times as it argues with itself. It features a larger cast, but all of the characters stay fairly non-descript and bland. And at the moment, that is just not something I'm vibing with. I was expecting to love this, but, to be entirely honest, I was bored. I kept hoping that I'd change my mind, I'd find the magic of The Story of Silence, but I didn't. If this is one you've been ogling up for yourself, I'd encourage you to check out a sample first to see if you mesh with the writing style.
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This book has such an interesting concept and that’s what kept me hooked all the way through. Looking at the difference between nature and nurture was really interesting and something I’ve never read before! Beautiful writing and a super intriguing story
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I honestly don't know how to review this book as I disliked it so much. I wouldn't have finished reading it if it wasn't for the fact I received it as an ARC (and also because I'm stubborn and if I start something, I'm going to finish).

It simply was not interesting at all, I didn't care about the characters at all and it read like somebody who has just learned about the "nature vs nurture" debate and is determined to make sure the readers all know they know about it. The premise is also really stupid because the Twin Gods each took a pair of twins to raise separately, one choosing them based on their nature and the other focusing on nurture. If they really wanted to properly compare, they'd have them all raised together so that the only variable that changed was the nature.
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Another wonderful story from Alex, a tale of who you can be if you chose to be. Or nature verse nurture.
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I do love historical fantasies (although they aren't my usual read) but this one didn't really grab me like I expected. Having not read their previous work, this was highly recommended by others yet I found myself bored for the most part.
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The Symmetry of Stars is unlike any historical fantasy I've read in the past few years. Considered and insightful, Myers weaves a thought-provoking narrative asking the age-old question: are people the way they are through nature or nurture? 

Through the eyes of an ethereal being that takes on a human form, Myers asks whether you can truly mould a child, train them as they grow up, all to fulfil a predetermined 'destiny' – whatever that may be? And, if you can, should you?

There are also a great number of other insightful topics handled with astounding tact. If you've read Myers' previous title, The Story of Silence, you'll know his interest in gender and the societal expectations which come with it. Despite specifically handling the pressures of medieval society (Italian and Middle-Eastern), the themes feel exceptionally modern. 

When I finish a book, I tend to look at other reviews before posting my own (which, may or may not be a good thing!) and I noticed a few people complaining that 'nothing happened.' I very much disagree, but I believe I understand where they're coming from. If you're reading this historical fantasy for dramatic quests and fearsome wars, you may be better off choosing another title. However, if you're a bit of a psychology buff, or into gender studies. and like your historical fiction character-driven, and to challenge your view of society, this is the book for you!
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I haven't ready anything by this author before so I think I need to go have a look at his other works. This was an interesting read about two Gods both raising a twin and they were supposed to see who's twin was the better one in the end. 
It wasn't my favourite book overall but I don't regret reading it, I just might not pick it back up.
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After loving Myers' previous work, I just knew that I had to pick this one up!

I really enjoyed seeing the ideas that gender /sex/nature/nurture really have an effect on people growing up.

I devoured this in one sitting and really enjoyed it!
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I really enjoyed Myers' previous work, The Story of Silence, but this book sadly wasn't for me. I was disinterested in the premise, but both the gorgeous cover and my love for Myers' work encouraged me to give it a go - unfortunately, it wasn't to be.
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I really loved Myers previous book and was really excited to read this one, but ultimately I was disappointed. I feel as though this would have worked better as a novella, as it felt as though there just wasn't enough substance at its core to keep the story going and it ended up dragging as a result, although there were a lot of ideas. It was an interesting premise, but the execution let it down.
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I was so incredibly bored reading this. Absolutely nothing happens and the ending was anticlimactic and at the end i just felt like what was the point of reading through all this for that. It had a good premise but the story was itself was just so boring.
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It's not a classic fantasy more a speculative fiction that develops a what-if based on two characters very loosely based on characters from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso
It's an interesting experiment dealing with topics like gender and how our future is defined by it.
It's a sort of philosophical novel and, even if a bit too long, it was a thought provoking and interesting read.
The polarity of Nature&Nurture, the detached voice of the narrator, the interesting female part of the twin couple are my favorite parts.
I think it could have been shorter as this type of fiction is usually a novella and not 400 pages.
It's difficult to understand who could be the right type of reader, I don't think it's the right type of story if you want a lot of action.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Unfortunately, I abandoned this book around the 45% mark. I really liked Myers' Story of Silence, and was happy to be offered a review copy, but this one didn't live up to my expectations.

I think this book would have made a really interesting short story exploring the concepts set out, but there simply isn't enough substance to warrant a full-length novel. The idea of Nature and Nurture setting itself a challenge felt rather meaningless without any world-building to explain the existence of Gods in this world, why they care about humans, or what it means to be exiled. Our narrator is detached, and details the lives of their test subjects in a dispassionate way that makes it hard to care about them, either. Even when down on what is presumably Earth, there was simply not enough detail to contextualise the lives of the twins or how their environments might shape their journey. 

I did like the idea to explore gender identity through the lens of nature vs nurture and to poke at and experiment with many of our engrained ideas about gender, but I'm just not sure this was the right format. 

Thanks for the opportunity to read and review.
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“But why are there no stories about women who are hard on the outside and soft on the inside and who let softness win… without losing everything?”

***

I am really sorry to say that I didn’t like this book much. It may be a question of taste, but I think it was a poor choice to choose as POV Nurture. Being a sort of goddess (god?!) she is detached from the human world and even if the whole story is her living among humans and getting attached to them, I still think there was too much distance between the real main characters and the readers. Failing to read their feelings first hand didn’t let me appreciate the story that much and get attached to them as I would have if I had had their POVs.

Nonetheless I appreciated Little Mars and Bradamante, the two female characters of the book. They have the souls of warriors in a world that think women should just stay home and be good mothers. They defy the rules of their society and each one in her own way succeeds! 

I especially appreciated Bradamante’s reflection about the fact that to be a good heroine in a story you must act like a man, being as fierce and strong and essentially deny the softest and most tender parts of yourself. Because in this world, people don’t take you seriously otherwise and this is intrinsically wrong. I loved her when she was strong and when she was fragile, what she went to battle and when she danced. Women, to be recognized, should never discard some parts of themselves because only when they really show everything they are they are really brave!

The rest of the book is a sort of competition between Nurture and Nature (spoiler!!! Humans need both to be really complete). Again, there’s no point in denying one in favor of the other, we have to cultivate our natural talents in order to become good and find our own passions and live the best lives we can.
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This cover is amazing, celestial and the beautiful blue. I loved the story and the idea of Nature vs Nurture, watching the twins grow from the perspective of the God, Nurture. I feel that the book could have finished a few pages earlier on a cliff hanger or could have continued for at least 4 chapter or more.
Maybe I was expecting a big finale but I want to know more 😂

Thank you Alex Meyers, HarperCollins and NetGalley for this arc, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Gods making bets, twins raised to be champions, and the issue of gender stereotypes are all explored in Alex Myers retelling of an Italian celestial myth. Nature versus nurture. Who will triumph?

This had so many brilliant ideas, but I thought the execution was a little bit messy. The world building takes a backseat to the development of the twins and seeing the world through their eyes, exploring their expectations and breaking boundaries. As a former anthropology student I viewed the raising of these twins much like the old, unethical experiments involving twins and the development of characteristics being either nature or nurture. The conversation is played around in a really unique way and really gets the reader thinking. However we get no set up, no reasonings behind why the Gods feel the need to do this. And there is no descriptions of the world around them, leaving the reader feeling a little bit lost, with a plot that is largely forgettable. 

Interesting ideas, but I wanted a bit more world building.
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I got to the end of this book and couldn’t help but wonder… what was the point of all this?

Two gods, Nature and Nurture, decide to have a competition to see who is more important. No reason, no exposition, just ‘let’s have a contest’. They are each going to pick a pair of twins to raise their own way, and those twins will be pitted against each other once they’re grown. (Side note: it’s not twins separated at birth, as you might expect. Just twins. They each get a set. No explanation.) And that’s… that’s it. That’s the plot.

It’s an interesting premise, but that’s where the positives ended for me. First of all: perspectives. The gods had very little nuance or interest to their characters; they had a goal, and they just did it. It would have been much more interesting to read from the perspectives of the humans, who don’t know they are being manipulated by gods until the very end. 

It felt like the sort of book with lots of Important IdeasTM, but I got to the end and I still don’t know what they were. It was clear the author was trying to explore ideas of gender, but we were stuck in circles for the whole story. Nature and Nurture are genderless, but take on male and female forms respectively when they come down to earth. In dialogue they agree that gender is a human construct, but in the narrative we see the male Nature being violent and uncaring while the female Nurture is – you guessed it – nurturing and caring, almost smothering. Nurture tells us she pays little attention to the exact human form she takes, then immediately tells us all about her womanly curves and says ‘I shook my very dainty feminine fist at the world at large’. The two female twins, one raised by Nature, one by Nurture, are both painfully “I’m not like other girls” types, and when they eventually meet they actually argue about the right way to be not-like-other-girls. Every statement made in the characters’ dialogue or thoughts was immediately negated by the action, and we went round and round in circles for the whole book.

As for the world-building, I don’t know where we are or when we are. It seems to be generic dark ages, I briefly thought it might be set around the Crusades but I’m not 100% sure. Some of it seemed to be set in the Middle East, some of it in Western Europe, some of it on a tropical island with lions. It didn’t feel at all rooted in a particular setting which doesn’t always bother me, but in this particular case the story just felt very unmoored.

Nothing came together at all for me in this book. I got to the end feeling like nothing had happened. It’s clear that there were a lot of ideas that went into this book, but none of them were explored in a satisfying way.
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Firstly, what a stunning cover! For someone obsessed with all things celestial, all things swords, and all things fantasy this cover spoke directly to my heart. And I was even more delighted when I started reading and recognised the influence and setting of the Italian epic poem Orlando Furioso. Now for those of you who aren’t familiar, the Orlando Furioso is a very lengthy poem set during the war between Charlemagne’s Christian paladins and the Saracen army that invaded Europe. It follows numerous characters and has a very roaming, if somewhat repetitive, plot. But I studied the poem in school in Italy, and then later at university, and there is something charming about it, so I really enjoyed revisiting some of its characters in this new telling. You absolutely do not need to know the original tale to enjoy The Symmetry of Stars, but I did find it prepared me for the structure of the narrative, which I’ll talk about more in a bit.

I wouldn’t call this a retelling, though. It’s more the author using this classic setting to play around with some very interesting concepts. The first of these concepts is Nurture vs Nature, and this is introduced right away, as the two “gods” who are vying to rule the current age of man are the embodiments of Nurture and Nature, two halves of a whole. One cannot exist without the other, yet they are in constant opposition. When we meet them, they are floating without form in the space between the stars, and as they watch the stars reset for the birth of a new age, they make a wager. Because neither can ever defeat the other directly, they decide to choose a set of souls each, and raise them (or not raise them, as might be the case) according to their embodiment, and at the appointed time the four will meet and the victors will decide which god will rule the age. The entire story is narrated by Nurture, known when they incorporate on earth as ‘Melissa’, a name decided by Nature, who takes the form of a demon-eyed wizard called Atlante.

The second concept that Myers plays around with is gender, which I know is something common to the author’s writing. Nurture and Nature are both genderless, and though they choose binaries when they descend to earth, they never comply entirely to the roles expected on men and women. In the same way, they don’t expect their twins – one boy and one girl in each case – to comply to societal expectations. Because the story is told by Nurture, we spend a lot of time with their twins, Riccardetto and Bradamante, but about 30% of the way through Nurture disincorporates and travels along the flow of time to observe the twins raised by Nature, Ruggiero and Marfisa – or rather, the twins that Nature leaves to their own devises, to roam around an island, mothered only by a wild lioness. In this way, throughout the narrative, we get to see each pair as they grow, and the way they differ as well as the ways they are similar, and watching as their destiny slowly leads them toward each other.

I absolutely loved this book, and it definitely lived up to the expectation I had when I first heard of it, but I do want to give a fair warning: this story does not have a lot of action. It is extremely character focused, with a lot of reflection. The characters who do the action, mainly the sets of twins, are all being observed by Nurture, a non-human character with a much wider perspective, so we don’t see the thoughts and feelings of the human characters firsthand. I enjoyed this because it was reminiscent of the way that the poem Orlando Furioso tends to drop down on one character for a bit before floating above the action, only to narrow down on someone else a while later. I think it was a very clever way for Myers to play with that influence, while still keeping it interesting – especially since the focus in The Symmetry of Stars is only four characters rather than the many one needs to remember in the original story. But yes, just be prepared that this book is not epic fantasy and great battles, but rather a look at what makes us who we are, and an ode to storytelling and how they shape us.
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While I can appreciate that "The Symmetry of Stars" is written very well and has an interesting story, it just didn't do it for me. Parts felt a little bit wishy-washy and light, where dark and deep would have better suited me. Maybe this needs me to read it again in a few months, as I'm sure I've missed something in the first read.

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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Although I did finish this title, I  can't say I really enjoyed it. The premise sounded interesting, but the execution was very lightweight. We see the story through the eyes of Nurture as she raises her twins and spys on the progress of Nature's twins. Neither of the twins really caught my interest and were quite cliched in their roles.
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