Body of Stars

Body of Stars


A bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world where women own the future but not their own bodies.

Like every woman, Celeste Morton holds a map of the future in her skin, every mole and freckle a clue to unlocking what will come to pass. With puberty comes the changeling period - when her final marks will appear and her future is decided.

The possibilities are tantalising enough for Celeste's excitement to outweigh her fear. Changelings are sought after commodities and abduction is rife as men seek to possess these futures for themselves.

Celeste's marks have always been closely entwined with her brother, Miles. Her skin holds a future only he, as a gifted interpreter, can read and he has always considered his sister his practice ground. But when Celeste's marks change she learns a devastating secret about her brother's future that she must keep to herself - and Miles is keeping a secret of his own. When the lies of brother and sister collide, Celeste determines to create a future that is truly her own.

Our Review

Body of Stars is a superb debut by Laura Maylene Walter. It will inevitably appeal to readers of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Grace Year, but Body of Stars is in a league all of its own and to compare is to suggest that there is an element of repetition and that is certainly not the case.

The author has succeeded in building an intricate world both similar and alien to our own. In this world women hold a “blueprint for their life mapped on their skin” in freckle-like marks. These maps remain the same until around their 16th birthday where they enter their ‘changeling’ period.

As a changeling the girls become irresistible to men and must be careful to protect themselves by dressing modestly and not going out on their own at night in case they are abducted by a man who cannot help himself.

Our protagonist, Celeste is about to enter this exciting and dangerous period of her life. She and her brother Miles have always been close and his wish to enter the female field of Interpretation has meant that her markings have never belonged to just her.

Then her adult markings come in she learns a devastating secret about Miles’ future, one she knows she must keep to herself. With Miles also keeping a secret from her will her future every really be known?

There is so much to discuss in Body of Stars so I will start by saying that yes this is another dystopian book about women who have been stripped of their autonomy by both the men in their life and by society in general. However, it is also unlike any book of its kind.

It is thought provoking and complicated read and is an open critique of the cultural and institutional bias existing around victims of rape.

I have seen some reviews complaining about the level of involvement of Miles in her story but that is missing the point somewhat. Surely it serves to further illustrate the lack of agency she has over her own body when her father and brother both violate her need for privacy due to a belief that they have a right to see her markings.

Also, without wishing to place any spoilers in the review I will just note that whilst Miles does play some small part in it, any change comes solely from Celeste and the work she carries out.

The opening passage was fantastic and drew me in immediately:

“From the time of my birth my brother Miles read me like a map, tracing my patterns of freckles and birthmarks to see my future and to learn something of his own. In those early years, my body was as much his as it was mine. To share meant letting him lift the base of my tank top or sweater so he could search my skin for a hint of what was to come.”

This passage really packed a punch and made me feel uncomfortable. I knew I would love the book from this moment on.

These markings on the body exist only on women and girls although there are some urban legends of men who choose to tattoo markings onto their skin and woman who try to mutilate their bodies to hide their markings.

The markings are interpreted using a book called Mapping The Future: An Interpretive Guide to Women and Girls. Young girls can also chose to go to the Interpretive District for readings although this also includes fraudsters who claim to read the future by using tarot cards, tea leaves or crystal balls. It is generally considered to be an unsafe area though due to the high number of girls who go missing in the area after dark.

In school the girls have to submit to yearly readings of their markings by a government employee unless they sign a form to say they object but this can affect future employment and educational opportunities.

Just as those girls who were abducted during their changeling period and then returned to their families would have limited opportunities going forward.

“It was a certain kind of girl who let herself get caught by men: the rebellious kind, the flirty kind, the kind who flaunted her future. I had grown up believing that. We all had.”

In this book there is a victim shaming around the victims of abduction which clearly mirrors the victim shaming which exists for rape victims in our society.

“The story was an old one. The best we could do was warn changelings not to go out alone at night, to stay within the safety of a group, to dress chastely during those dangerous few weeks. Girls were considered women as soon as they changed, so we were expected to shoulder that responsibility to put forth the effort to protect ourselves.”

The implication being that anything that befell them would be their fault and not that of the men involved.

I often felt deep rage whilst reading this book and that is a clear sign that this was an excellent book because I cared so deeply about the fate of the protagonist.

I could rant on and on about how excellent this book is but I am afraid I would inadvertently give away a spoiler so I will end with one of my favourite quotes from the book and a reminded that Body of Stars is one to watch out for.

“More than anything, I wished those girls to have the ability to command their own lives, no matter what was marked on their skin. I wanted them to be liberated, and unafraid, and brimming with potential and possibility. But that wasn’t how the world worked for girls and women. Instead, we were made vulnerable through no fault of our own and held liable for the crimes committed against us.

We were born already broken.”

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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