Thursday, 24 December 2020

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Review: Paris By Starlight by Robert Dinsdale

Paris By Starlight By Robert Dinsdale

Paris By Starlight by Robert Dinsdale


Published: 5th November 2020 | Publisher: Del Rey | Source: NetGalley
Robert Dinsdale's Website

Every city has its own magic...

Every night on their long journey to Paris from their troubled homeland, Levon’s grandmother has read to them from a very special book. Called The Nocturne, it is a book full of fairy stories and the heroic adventures of their people who generations before chose to live by starlight.

And with every story that Levon’s grandmother tells them in their new home, the desire to live as their ancestors did grows. And that is when the magic begins...

Nobody can explain why nocturnal water dogs start appearing at the heels of every citizen of Paris-by-Starlight like the loyal retainers they once were. There are suddenly night finches in the skies and the city is transforming: the Eiffel Tower lit up by strange ethereal flowers that drink in the light of the moon.

But not everyone in Paris is won over by the spectacle of Paris-by-Starlight. There are always those that fear the other, the unexplained, the strangers in our midst. How long can the magic of night rub up against the ordinariness of day? How long can two worlds occupy the same streets and squares before there is an outright war?
From Goodreads.

I received this eProof for free from Del Rey via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.


Having read and loved The Toy Makers earlier this year, I was so excited to read Robert Dinsdale's next magical realism book, Paris By Starlight! While I really enjoyed it, I found it to be not quite as enchanting as his previous book.

Paris By Starlight follows the lives of Isabelle, a young musician who has come back to Paris to find the father she hasn't seen for 18 years, and Levon, a young man who has travelled over 3,000 miles with his family to Paris after his home country was invaded. Their lives become intertwined when Isabelle helps a lost Arina, Levon's youger sister, find her way back home. They are the People, regugees from the old country - a country so small it had no name - where their ancestors lived by night in a world of enchantment. As Maia, Levon's grandmother, reads the family the fairy tales of the old country from her book The Nocturne, and encourages them all to live by night, something wonderful happens. The old country starts materialising in Paris; the flowers-by-night, flowers that bloom only when it's dark and give off their own luminescense. When the People of the old country in Paris hear of what they're doing, they start doing the same, and the flowers of the old country spread. When the People in other countries hear that the old country is coming back in Paris, they flock there, too, and soon Paris-by-Starlight is such a sight to behold, almost unrecognisable. Some Parisians are enchanted and awed and moved by their city's transformation, and the wonders brought here by the People, but there are others who are resentful of the People moving to their home, bringing their "black magic", and taking their women. It's not long before resentment turns to hate, and the People they discover the one place where they thought they could be themselves is a place rife with fear.

Paris By Starlight is a story of difference, and how people react to that difference. It's a story of probably every country that has resented people in need, whose homes have been destroyed, seeking refuge and safety. This story is set in Paris, but it could easily be set anywhere. It could be set where you live. While the story is at times beautiful, it's also horrifying, and holds up a mirror to our prejudices, and the discrimination against people who simply want to live and survive. Where do you go when your home has been taken from you and to stay is to be killed, but nowhere else wants you? More than once I exclaimed out loud is terror and disgust at what the hate and anger leads to; the violence, the destruction, the death. And the sorrow of understanding a people wanting just to be allowed to live deciding to stand their ground and fight back, and become dangerous and hate-filled people in return. It's a vicious circle, when it that was needed was warmth, kindness, acceptance, compassion, and welcome. It's a heartbreaking story of tragedy after tragedy, but there is also wonder after wonder.

However the magic, as beautiful and awe-inspiring as it was at first lost some of it's shine for me. Luminescent flowers appear all over Paris, and soon animals of the old country too. The geography of the land changes, even, and there are spectacular sights to see on The Night of the Seven Stars. For the People, it's an important reminder of home, it gives them a place to belong, a connection to their ancestry and a country that no longer resists. It's a link to their culture, their traditions, and their history. It's undoubtedly hugely important. But as an aspect of a fictional magic realism story, I ended up feeling a little underwhelmed. It doesn't really do much. It just is, it just exists. It's there, and that's it. It's importance is in what it means, but not in what it is. It's super pretty, but that's it. I just wish there was more to this unexplainable magic.

But this is much more a human story than a magical one, and so I can understand why there wasn't more to it. It's about the People. It's about their relationships with each other and their home. And it's about Levon, Isabelle, Arina, and all the other characters and how they are effected by the changes, by the distance it breeds. It's a story of love, identity, belonging, home, and a story of difference, hate, and violence. It's an incredibly important story, and one I would implore everyone to read. It truly is a wonderful, beautiful, heartbreaking, and tragic story. And while I was a little disppointed, I still loved it, and will continue to read Dinsdales gorgeous stories.

Thank you to Del Rey for the eProof.

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