The City Beneath the Hidden Stars

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 27 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 15 Sep 2022

Talking about this book? Use #TheCityBeneaththeHiddenStars #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


Drawing on an eclectic mix of influences and based on the myths and history of Zagreb, Croatia, The City Beneath the Hidden Stars is a fantastical story that unveils the wondrous concealed in the mundane and is an adventure not to missed.

Long ago, the Black Queen once ruled Zagreb in a looming fortress over the city. Her legend lives on in children’s games and bedtime stories. Is it truly only folklore? And what harm is death to a queen who supposedly stole secrets from the stars?

When rumors surface that the Black Queen might still be alive and living in a haunted chasm beneath Zagreb’s Bear Mountain, it prompts the Star Council to dispatch star daimon Leo Solar to Earth to investigate.

After witnessing a bizarre event at a local music gig, former philosophy student Dario Taubek begins to notice a strange-looking man in a star suit. Curious, he follows him and what he discovers catapults him into a world he never knew existed. A world of magical trams, myths and monsters, celestial beings, and the legendary Black Queen.

Drawing on an eclectic mix of influences and based on the myths and history of Zagreb, Croatia, The City Beneath the Hidden Stars is a fantastical story that unveils the wondrous concealed in the...

A Note From the Publisher

Available in the following formats: Hardcover: 978-1-64397-310-4 | Softcover: 978-1-64397-311-1 | Ebook:.978-1-64397-312-8 | LCCN: 2021944668 | Print distribution through Ingram, Gardners, and Baker & Taylor | Ebook library distribution through Overdrive, Hoopla, and Baker & Taylor.

Available in the following formats: Hardcover: 978-1-64397-310-4 | Softcover: 978-1-64397-311-1 | Ebook:.978-1-64397-312-8 | LCCN: 2021944668 | Print distribution through Ingram, Gardners, and Baker...

Advance Praise

“Kudei promises to be an exciting talent. This novel is a fun standalone that combines glimmers of Croation folklore, the atmosphere of an invented underground magical Zagreb, and the snarky, ironic energy of Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett” Booklist

"readers with a taste for madcap fantasy will find something to enjoy." Publishers Weekly

“Kudei promises to be an exciting talent. This novel is a fun standalone that combines glimmers of Croation folklore, the atmosphere of an invented underground magical Zagreb, and the snarky, ironic...

Marketing Plan

—Indie Next List (September) Nomination

—Library Reads (September) Nomination

—National Review Coverage

—Prepublication Buzz Campaign

—Extensive marketing to Booksellers, Librarians, and Book Influencers, including digital ARC campaign

—Digital ARCs Offered on NetGalley & LibraryThing

—Featured title in Fresh Fiction’s Book Box for September

—Targeted Consumer Email Marketing

—Extensive Social Media Promotion

Key Selling Points:

—The novel is loosely based on the local legends of the Black Queen, a mythical fifteenth-century witch and onetime ruler of an ancient fortress near Zagreb, Croatia.

—The novel will appeal to a wide-range of fantasy lovers as well as those who enjoy more literary fiction.

—Readers who enjoyed Stardust by Neil Gaimon and The Snowmelt River by Frank P. Ryan will find a new favorite author in Sonya Kudei.

—Indie Next List (September) Nomination

—Library Reads (September) Nomination

—National Review Coverage

—Prepublication Buzz Campaign

—Extensive marketing to Booksellers, Librarians, and Book...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781643973104
PRICE $30.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB)
Send to Kindle (EPUB)
Download (EPUB)

Average rating from 74 members

Featured Reviews

The City Beneath The Hidden Stars was a pretty decent first book for the author Sonya Kudei. While I do believe there is room for a book two, there is no cliff hanger.

The first part was a little difficult for me to follow because it was too descriptive and lost my attention easily .. It was at fifty percent in when the story finally got more interesting and picked up for me.. I was convinced there was going to be a cliff hanger but the story ends a bit abruptly.

In this story you get Croatian lore, witches, legends, a bit of the underworld , multi dimensions, celestial democracy, and a variety of magical animals. I would say this is a good urban fantasy for high schoolers and middle schoolers.

My favorite characters were Leo and Dario even though Leo sometimes drove me batty. One of the funny parts
that stuck out to me was when Dario brought Leo The Hobbit book assuming it was a banishing book. lol

There is no romance in this story, it stays pretty clean minus a few cuss words.

Overall this was a pretty good start and I'd love to see Leo work with Stella more.

Was this review helpful?

An irreverent adventure that mixes Croatian folklore with extra-terrestrial mythology. Story takes a bit to get going on the front end.

Old tales in the city of Zagreb tell of a queen dark and powerful who used to rule with an iron fist. But those days are long gone. A girl playing schoolyard games. A college dropout looking for direction. A literal fallen star tasked with atoning for his sins. Three strangers suddenly faced with stopping the rise of the Black Queen. But the queen is dead. Isn't she?

I rarely dedicate more than a sentence to an author's writing style, but I think I have to start with the style here, because it defines so much of the book itself. The writing is irreverent and cynical, with a very conversational style, as if the story is being recounted by one of the disaffected philosophy students that the book's hero Dario hangs out with. Detailed descriptions of people and places are punctuated with sly remarks about shortcomings or lack of relevance. All in all, it gives the events of this book a sense of being an inconsequential thing, which is strange, because I would argue that the rise of an ancient evil is very consequential. Even set against the backdrop of an interstellar war, the Black Queen and her followers present a genuinely terrifying threat, and scenes with her were especially chilling. Plot moves like the final drop on a rollercoaster, slowly easing readers up to the top before a sharp, adrenaline-pumping finale. The three heroes of this book are Stella, Dario, and Leo. Stella is probably my favorite - a spunky young heroine doing her best in the world. Dario and Leo are a fun odd couple, both trapped in situations they're trying to escape, and I'd be delighted to read further adventures with them. I know absolutely nothing about Croatian mythology (or Zagreb, for that matter), but reading this book has made me very interested in learning more. An appendix of some sort with names or other details would be much appreciated by this reader.

Was this review helpful?

The City Beneath the Stars is fantasy-filled, imaginative storytelling. I loved the mythological influences and alternative world that Sonya Kudei has crafted and am eager to visit this world in literature again.

Was this review helpful?

The City Beneath the Hidden Stars is a mix of Croatian mythology, science fiction, witches, and star beings. It's a magical tale centered in Zagreb, Croatia and is a fun read featuring mythology that's not commonly referenced, which I enjoyed learning about a lot.

I found myself having some difficulty getting into the book initially as the first portion is quite detailed and slowly paced. However, as we follow Dario, Leo, and Stella, it becomes a lot more fun!

Was this review helpful?

The City Beneath the Hidden Stars is an interesting book by Sonya Kudei.
This book takes place in Zagreb, and is about Croatian mythology. That in itself is very interesting, I do not hear anything about Croatian mythology. But it is also interesting in the writing style.
The City Beneath the Hidden Stars is about an evil queen, called the Black Queen, who was trapped but is now trying to get untrapped and come back to destroy Zagreb. Three characters have to stop her. First is Leo, an arrogant star daemon. Next is Dario, a former philosophy student who has a very boring and sad life. Third is Stella, a child who is responsible for helping the Black Queen return in the first place.
The plot is solid, it takes a while to get going, but the characters are all very fun. But the writing style is the best part. It has a very dry and aloof humor, and spends a good deal of its time insulting Zagreb. But this makes even the more boring parts fun, and it makes the story seem less important.
I would recommend this book to people who want to learn more about Croatian mythology, and who like a dry humor throughout their book.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you NetGalley for the chance to read this book. I will preface that I got an updated copy of the book that no longer contains what previous reviewers mentioned they were concerned about so I will base my review on the updated copy.

I enjoyed reading this book and I liked the writing style but I could see how it wouldn’t appeal to everyone. I thought this book was unique, dark, and sometimes funny all at the same time. I liked the characters and various worlds as well.

Was this review helpful?

The book is interesting and the characters are fun to read. The story set in crotian mythology and has its own unique and dark world.

The Evil Queen tries to untrap and destroy the city. The main characters are Leo, Dario and Stella. It was slow pace for a few chapters but gets interesting soon. It has a humor sense that i enjoyed so much. Also some cute moments.

I would recommend this book to those who love Crotian Mythology.

I thank the Netgalley and BHC Publisher for the advance copy for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Thanks to NetGalley and BHC Press for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

If one makes it through the first 50%, this book is a solid 4, but 50% is a lot of rambling on and that's why I think everyone settled for a 3.

1. YES to chapter titles!

2. The story follows Leo, Dario, and Stella, who are great main characters that do not follow any stereotypical trope. I like Leo so much, mainly because I think he fits the writing of the book best. He's so fun to read and he personally brings most fantasy aspect to the book.

3. The pace picked up significantly after the 50% mark. To the point that I believe I could cut about 20% of the book and it would still make sense to people. The writing was easy to read, but it went to too much details about things that would never be seen again and that threw the readers off. There are a lot of comical description and details thrown in just to be quirky. I also expected the Black Queen's side to be more essential to the plot, but because of the writing, it was treated as something nonsequential. It is a pity since I enjoyed it a lot.

4. Because of the long introduction, one thing I don't like is the lack of reaction from the people when they encounter magical situations. They just stand there while someone explains things to them unprompted, and they just think yup that totally makes sense. Like come on, you used so many words to describe things but now you can't give them a proper reaction? This gives me a feeling that the author wanted to get to the point so much, she just explained everything in one go.

Overall, I think it is a solid book for an author debut. I personally have no knowledge about Croatian mythology and lore so this is a nice introduction.

Was this review helpful?

I am very grateful to BHC Press to have sent me the digital copy of this book! I really enjoyed it.
The "City beneath the hidden stars" by Sonya Kudei has been conceived as a mix of myths of Zagreb, in Croatia.
It starts with the arrival to the Earth of Leo Solar, a star daimon sent to investigate about the rumors of Black Queen being still alive. The Black Queen, called like this for her black style of clothing, was the ruler of Zagreb and she lived in Bear Town Fortress. Leo must meet with the mysterious Hermit to gather information.
Everyone believed that she was dead but one day she appeared in front of a girl named Stella, while she was playing with her friends. Only she could see the scary Black Queen.
At a certain point the philosophy student Dario Taubek after having noticed a strange man with a blue cloak, he starts following him. And... The adventure begins!

I loved the myth the author chose to develop in this book, I was in love with the idea of star daimons. Particularly I was very interested in names the author used for characters and places!
The style is very simple, easy to understand and fluent. I suggest this book if you want to read a book in English but you are not used to.
Besides, this book is a good choice if you want to enter a magical world full of stars and legends.

Was this review helpful?

A gripping read, worth checking by readers interested in intriguing worldbuilding, solid characterization, and clever plots. Recommended.

Was this review helpful?

Overall, this was an interesting read! It took me a little while to get into the storyline of this one, as the author has a very descriptive writing style and spends time introducing a fair number of characters and settings. Once I got about 30% in, the story picked up a lot and I really enjoyed it! It’s a unique setting and interesting storyline. I would love to read more about the history behind the Black Queen and the future promise hinted at about another character.

Was this review helpful?

The City Beneath the Hidden Stars was an entertaining and fun fantasy-action tale. The humorous narration captured my attention from page one, and the story held it until the end. I came to this book off the back of some so-so reads and it thankfully pulled me right out of my slump. It isn't perfect; I had some questions at the end that were never answered and the finale felt a tad rushed after all the build-up, with some deus-ex-machina moments saving the day. However, if you're after a fun fantasy adventure story with a good dose of humour it's definitely worth a read. It gets 4 stars from me and I would happily read more works by this author in the future.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to receive an arc in exchange for my honest review- all thoughts and opinions are my own!

This book was pretty unique to me- culturally, lore wise. I appreciated that, and it led me on lots of hole digging online. The author does an amazing job writing, I appreciated this one!

Was this review helpful?

Really really enjoyed this book! Im a big fan of fantasy and this book had me locked in from the begginning!

Was this review helpful?

Some schoolchildren in Zagreb are playing an old game called Black Queen when they accidentally summon some otherworldly creatures. This causes Leo Solar to be sent to the White City. Leo is a star daimon who has a past with the Black Queen and he has been sent to make sure she stays put under the mountain. There are a lot of other storylines weaved in which can make the story a bit confusing. This didn't detract from the story at all.
I was intrigued by the mention of Croatian folklore and while I found the story hard to get into at first after the first two or three chapters I was intrigued and curious to see where this story would take me.

Was this review helpful?

This book shows a lot of promise; parts of the prose were humorous and illustrative, proving that Kudei has a beautiful artistic voice. However, sometimes the language gets ahead of itself, and the plot is lost in flowery paragraphs. This is a solid fantasy pick for anyone who's a fan of Enchantment, and fantasy fans will enjoy a glimpse into some of these Croatian legends.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you NetGalley and BHC Press for approving my ARC copy of this book.

The start of the book felt a bit dragging. It was super descriptive - being a fantasy fan I am usually used to high-level world-building but this almost felt exhaustive. Despite this, I did find the writing to be beautiful and I felt like I was really there.

Any story that incorporates folklore and mythology will catch my eye and I thought it was really imaginative. I am not familiar with Croatian mythology so it was quite fresh and new for me.

I really enjoyed the characters and the humour - fun banter is always a plus for me so the fact we got it from the narrator made it even better.

Was this review helpful?

Wow, this has been such a ride. Even though I thorougly enjoyed this story, I had to take several reading breaks.
This is due to the often not so subtile attempt of humoutr.
Please do not get me wrong, most of the time I enjoyed the writing style and the jokes but from time to time they felt to forced and I had to step back from the book to come back and be able to enjoy it.
What I really enjoyed was the Starman Leo (who in my head looks like David Bowie, I cannot help it).
The sheer amount of children plying a role in this book on the other hand was just overwhelming.
But what is this book about? Well, there is a dark legend about the Black Queen, there are star daimons, demonic animals, cursed trams, a lot of humour and all in all a gloomy vibe.
This is a fresh breath infantasy literature and a definite recommendation for everyone who enjoys whimsicle characters and dark stories.
3,5/5 Stars, great debut.
Also thank you to Netgalley for the fre ARC

Was this review helpful?

Wow. I was blown away with this book. I was not expecting the depth and world building of this story. I also thought the character development was fantastic and I couldn’t put it down. Definitely worth the read and am on my way to buy the physical copy!

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: