Tuesday, January 8, 2019

These Broken Stars (Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner)

These Broken Stars
The Starbound trilogy, Book 1
Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Fiction, YA Romance/Sci-Fi
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Lowborn soldier Tarver Merendsen became a war hero fighting rebel colonists, but still knows his place: far below the rest of the passengers aboard the hyperspace luxury liner Icarus. Not that he wants anything to do with the snobby elites, playing their frivolous little games and having endless parties while colony worlds struggle and soldiers die... until he sees her. Unlike the others, she looks him right in the eye, and doesn't talk down to him or see him as a charming novelty. But then he finds out who she is. Despite what his heart might say, he knows he has no chance, nor does he want one, not with the daughter of the legendary magnate Roderick LaRoux.
Lilac, sole daughter of perhaps the wealthiest man in the galaxy, lives in a gilded prison. Despite the money and the silk ball gowns and the prestige, anyone she gets close to must be of proper social standing - and nobody's standing is high enough for a LaRoux. "We only have each other," Father often tells her, and seems determined to keep it that way for her entire life, grooming her not so much to inherit his role as to be a pampered ornament. She didn't mean to engage the stranger in conversation, but something about the unpolished young man intrigued her, even if she knows she can never hope to see him again. Not unless she wants to risk him vanishing as other boys and men have who got too close to Roderick LaRoux's precious little girl.
Then the unthinkable happens: the hyperdrives fail, and the Icarus crashes with all hands... save two, who made it to the only escape pod to clear the wreckage. None other than Tarver and Lilac.
A battle-hardened soldier and a socialite, alone in the wilderness... at first, it's all they can do to keep from killing each other. But there's something much stranger going on than they first realize. For one thing, hyperdrives don't just fail. For another, though the world appears to have been terraformed, there are no sign of inhabitants, and nobody would go to that much trouble just to walk away from a planet. The longer they stay, the more they realize something's very wrong - something that destroyed whoever first colonized this world and the Icarus, and may well destroy them before they can be rescued.

REVIEW: This book had many positive reviews and a decent premise, so I went into it with high hopes. At first, those hopes were met with disappointment. Dated ideas (particularly the idea of fathers owning daughters and their "virtue," though not said in so many words) and other oddly anachronistic details keep the galactic civilization the authors create from feeling too futuristic, and the characters initially come across as little more than stock young adult romance leads: him the nuts-and-bolts, no-nonsense soldier with dirt under the nails, her the silk-and-ribbons society girl who far outranks him socially but seems largely helpless practically. Both prove more than a little slow to learn, with multiple backslides. As I read on, the characters slowly took on some more depth, even if their situation (and the general storyline of opposites attracting amid hardship) brought few surprises (and more than one near eyeroll.) Yet I kept turning pages; if it wasn't spectacular, it was readable, at least. But somehow, imperceptibly, These Broken Stars develops some true depth and originality, taking a few surprising twists on the way to an ending that redeems much (if not quite all) of the earlier flatness. In the end, that strong finale lifted the tale to four stars in the ratings, which may not match many of the glowing reviews I'd read elsewhere but still makes for a respectable showing.

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