‘Star-Shot’ is the debut novel by Mary-Ann Constantine. Published by Seren Books in 2015, it is a gloriously mysterious and magical exploration through Cardiff.
The novel follows the inter-twined lives of Myra, Theo, Luke, Dan and Teddy (along with a variety of other characters). It isn’t always obvious who is speaking, because the voices aren’t very distinct, but I didn’t find that a problem. Because of the way the novel is constructed (instead of chapters there are simple numbered sections) it feels like this flow is entirely purposeful. In some ways it was almost a game to figure out who was speaking in each section. It was also very interesting that there weren’t any quotation marks, which also furthers my thought that this vagueness is entirely purposeful. This is not to say that the characters don’t have personality – they have entirely individual wants, beliefs, and backgrounds. It is the writing style that complicates them in very interesting ways.
Magic intertwines with the mundane in ‘Star-Shot’. I’ll admit, I haven’t actually read all that much magical realism. However, I was swept away by the simple acceptance of the sentience of buildings, an undefinable wave of silence that sweeps over the city, and how this has entirely physical and medical implications for various inhabitants of the city. In short…it was just charming. There wasn’t much explanation or concrete world-building, but once again, I didn’t mind this. It fit entirely with the fog and silence that infused the novel: too many explanations and details would have ruined its delightful ambiguity. I will definitely be foraying more into magical realism after this taster, I think.
I would love to read more from Mary-Ann Constantine, and indeed from Seren Books! Everything about this novel was beautifully structured and written. Cardiff is transformed into a place of sheer mystery, and, perhaps, the ultimate site of hope.