"The Stars May Rise and Fall," by Estella Mirai
New Adult Gay (M/M) Contemporary Romance
Dreams don't always look the way you expect them to.
Teru came to Tokyo with dreams of making it big in the glam-metal visual kei scene, but three years later, all he has to show for it is a head of hot pink hair and some skill with an eyeliner pencil. He may look the part, but he doesn’t sound it, and constant bickering among his bandmates has him worried about his future. When he finds a mysterious business card in his bag, he’s willing to take any help he can get.
Help comes in the form of Rei, a crippled, disfigured composer whose own career was ended by an accident before it had really begun. With Teru’s voice and looks, and Rei’s money and songwriting skills, both of their dreams seem about to come true – but a forbidden kiss and a late-night confession threaten to tear it all apart. Now Teru, who has spent most of his life denying his attraction to men, and Rei, who vowed long ago never to love again, must reconcile their feelings with their careers – and with their carefully constructed ideas of themselves.
THE STARS MAY RISE AND FALL is an M/M retelling of Phantom of the Opera, set in Tokyo at the turn of the millennium. It comes with a healthy dose of angst and a dollop of nostalgia, as well as an age-difference romance, a physically disabled love interest, and memorable characters who will stay with you long after the pages are closed.
Holy crap on a cracker, y’all. This week’s read is just about everything and more. The Stars May Rise and Fall, by Estella Mirai, is a gorgeously crafted mash-up of multiple genres and themes. It isn’t as simple as calling it a romance, because while there’s romance, that isn’t the half of it. It’s a wonderful, inspiring, heartwarming representation of love sprouting where you’d least expect it, paired with about thirty other jaw-dropping ideas.
This story is set in Tokyo, Japan during the glam-metal visual kei period at the turn of the millennium. No, prior to reading this I didn’t personally have any knowledge of Japanese music movements in the early 2000s, but after devouring this book, it feels like I was there. The author sells this as a retelling of the great Phantom of the Opera, and I won’t lie, that was a huge selling point for me. I love that story, and the idea of an LGBTQ+ re-imagining of it, set in a foreign land I’ve always wanted to visit, felt too good to be true. And it was. It really was.
This is definitely a re-imagining, not a strict re-telling. You can feel the heart of the Phantom story driving the initial plot, but beyond that, this is all Ms. Mirai’s magic and handiwork. It’s clear she either experienced this period in Japanese music culture first-hand or she did some hella-intense research. The world comes alive under her talented craftsmanship, yet it doesn’t drown out the story itself. Everything in this book is balanced so beautifully I can’t even produce words to describe it. I was immersed into the Tokyo of the 2000s. I learned about the music industry there, and the culture, with ease and simplicity. Nothing felt forced down my throat, yet it all felt big and dynamic and real. It added to the story, not detracted from it as strong world building sometimes can. It was a backdrop to a gorgeous story not a scene-thief.
Then there are the characters themselves. I’ve saved this discussion for last because I wanted it to hit y’all the hardest. These characters. I just… I fell hard. To say the least. The relationship between Teru and Rei is so genuine, and the progression from their initial meet-cute to that first moment of recognition that there could and should be more between them is so natural I almost forgot I was reading a romance. But not in a bad way. It’s just this story has a way of genre-meshing in this awe-inspiring way. It almost felt like lit fic for a while, because the emotions were so raw and real and it isn’t the typical romance progression. There’s a different feel to the build-up of their relationship. Something that isn’t quite “romance genre” yet feels so intense and perfect for these characters that I never questioned it for one instance.
And can I just mention how well Ms. Mirai handles the disability rep in this story? There needs to be more stories like this in the world. Stories where disabled, “imperfect” humans can be heroes, find love, and have adventures all their own. Yes, we’re aware of Rei’s disfigurement/disability and the struggles he faces because of it, but that isn’t remotely the focus. Ms. Mirai allows him to simply be who he is as she carries the reader away on an unforgettable journey.
So, seriously folks, what are you waiting for? The Stars May Rise and Fall is available for your immediate reading pleasure. It’s also available on Kindle Unlimited!
Until next time,