A Circle of Stars by Craig Montgomery debuted on June 16th and has already garnered a small following thanks to Montgomery’s TikTok campaign. This new novel has another opportunity to reach a wider audience through its audiobook.
As one of the early readers of this novel, I was intrigued to see how an audiobook would change my experience with this exciting tale.
The novel rotates perspectives between three leading players — Casper, Helix, and Talleah — as they witness the political change around them. However, the main focus is on Casper, a teenager who was kicked out of his family’s home for being gay and then transported to Novilem.
The audiobook runs 14 hours and 20 minutes, but those hours fly by as the narrator, Kirt Graves’ soft voice, lulls you into believing you are on Novilem watching these events unfold. His voice adds a layer of realism to each moment, allowing your mind to forget your surroundings for a little while.
Many new words and ideas are presented with the setting of the fictional city of Novilem and Ouranos. While world-building makes every fantasy novel great — it can kind of bog down the meat of the story if not appropriately handled.
Luckily with A Circle of Stars, this information is given over time so as not to overwhelm the reader. One of the great things about the character of Casper is that he’s from Earth, so he’s learning all this information with the reader.
When reading it off the page, keeping track of a whole new world, society, and its terminology can be hard to wrap your head around. Knowing exactly how to pronounce the different positions in government and the other magical terms is one of the most significant advantages of consuming via audiobook format.
While magic and space can be common elements in fantasy novels, what sets this tale apart is how the people gain their magic. For the people of Novilem, the magic comes to them in various forms based on what astrological sign they were born under.
This story is unforgettable because it takes you on a journey of growth, love, recovery, and reclamation. All within the elements of new magic, queer themes, and a fantastical space society that somewhat mirrors what we know to be true about our society.
By including elements of discrimination, racism, and classism through the eyes of a magical society, the author allows us to have a stronger appreciation for our own societal struggles.
Casper is supposed to be this symbol of hope and change to the citizens of Novilem, or at least that is what he is told when he arrives. However, through interactions with others and his budding relationship with Helix, he learns that everything is not as it first appears.
The journey these central characters go on as their lives intersect in explosive ways keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end. With this book being the first in a duology, we are set up nicely to discover what comes next for the people of Novilem, with Casper, Helix, and Talleah leading the charge in their own unique ways.
With Casper and Helix, readers find themselves on a journey of love but also heartbreak. Their baggage prevents them from being entirely happy in their new relationship but ultimately allows them to discover that love creates a strength beyond comprehension.
The journey they travel is one that many readers will find a connection with because their struggles are ones that many people can understand — especially those who are within the queer community.
While Talleah is more of a secondary character to Casper and Helix, her struggle to be reunited with a daughter unjustly stolen from her is one anyone can have compassion for. Readers can understand her motives as she goes from being meek and mild to the center of the rebellion.
At first, she centers her goals on locating her beloved daughter, but soon enough, she realizes that she’s not the only one who has suffered such a fate. This turns her into a central fighter for the cause, even if she’s still somewhat reluctant by the end.
It’s clear that in the book to come, she will be stepping up even further for the rights and lives of her people as Novilem rebuilds.
A Circle of Stars could easily fall into the trappings of your typical fantasy story involving a rebellion and a fight for justice. However, this novel makes its own path to stand out by implementing subtle queer themes, combining known “Earth” cultures, and creating complex characters.
Readers follow Casper, Helix, and Talleah into battle and beyond because these characters present us with someone worth rooting for. While they each have their flaws, their ability to grow and evolve beyond them keeps us hanging on from moment to moment.
With a full-on societal rebuilding on the horizon and a villain still at large, we eagerly anticipate the sequel to give us the conclusion of a lifetime.
This is one space adventure you don’t want to miss.
A Circle of Stars is available in book format wherever books are sold and in audiobook format on Audible.