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“Courage is not the absence of Fear. Star had taught me that. Courage is to act despite the Fear.”

Requiem for a StarU.G. Gutman gives a tantalising glimpse into his Dawnless Night series in Requiem for a Star, a profound little prequel novella full of self-exploration, philosophical musings, dangerous magic, sweet romance, and soul-stirring emotion.

Through the eyes of the young and precocious girl Nova, we get to experience Nye, or Neoro, way before he became the fearsome witch hunter we have come to know and love (or hate?) in Winds of Strife. In an almost stream of consciousness way, Nova lays her soul bare and takes us along on their vulnerable coming of age journey and budding relationship; though this is not simply a story about romance, it’s more a brutally bittersweet story exploring grief, life, death, and love in all its devastating beauty.

“Neoro, even as a fourteen-year-old, refused to ‘flow’ with being sad. Even before he was Nye. Even before he learned Senspirity. He was the kind who acts, who tries to solve everything.”

Let’s just get this out of the way first: Requiem for a Star is one of my favourite novellas I have ever read. It completely sucked me in from page one and then had me tearing up from both joy and sorrow by the end; and all that in just 80 pages! From reading Winds of Strife back in 2021, I knew that Gutman was a skilled storyteller, but he just stepped up his game in every single way in this novella for me.

Though slightly less dark and disturbing than Winds of Strife, this novella just packs everything that is so amazing about The Dawnless Night series and offers it in a delicious bite-sized chunk. I hadn’t even realised how much I had missed being in this world, as brutal as it is, until I opened these pages and was awe-struck by the incredible imagination and rich atmosphere all over again.

With a story that is so vulnerably intimate and quietly introspective, I loved how the emotion-based Senspirity magic absolutely got to shine in Requiem for a Star. Nova is a very curious and inquisitive young girl, and I really enjoyed seeing her starting to discover the extent of her (feared) powers. Gutman does a remarkably fine job of introducing this complex magic system in just a few pages, filling both old and new readers of this series with excitement and wonder.

“Then I dove into the depths of my heart and gave myself up to Sadness. Not for any magic or self-studies, rather, just to be human. I’d earned it, this one time, the right to feel down for just the sake of feeling down. So, I dove into it, and I cracked.”

Though what I maybe appreciated most about this novella, is how deeply layered and emotionally resonant it is. In a way, Requiem for a Star almost reads like a lament, which makes so much sense when you read the incredibly moving dedication and author’s note. This entire story is just drenched in a deep sense of melancholy, and I loved how Nova’s philosophical musings and existential quandaries gave this simple tale such a surprising amount of nuance and depth.

Now, I can see how some readers might bounce off Nova’s quirky unfiltered narration, but for me it was honestly deeply immersive and engrossing, making all the emotional beats hurt so so so good. Moreover, her dynamic with Neoro (who is an absolute cinnamon roll) was so incredibly sweet and wholesome, which makes it only more tragic to reflect on the way that Neoro/Nye has changed when we meet him in Winds of Strife. Gutman just has an incredible gift for writing extremely complex and human characters who will creep under your skin, whether you like it or not.

“Why not both? You can be an old soul in a young body, and a kid, at the same time.” 

Whether you treat this as a little appealing appetiser to The Dawnless Night series or come back to it as a delicious (and somewhat soothing) dessert after finishing book 1, I think Requiem for a Star is an absolute triumph of a prequel novella that you absolutely should not miss out on. It’s dark, it’s intriguing, it’s emotional, it’s thought-provoking, it’s heartwarming, but most of all, it’s absolutely unforgettable; this is simply everything a prequel novella should be, and then so much more.

Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Requiem for a Star is scheduled for release on August 2, 2024. 

Requiem for a Star

Requiem for a Star

Requiem for a Star

Requiem for a Star

Requiem for a Star

Requiem for a Star

Requiem for a Star

Requiem for a Star

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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