Our Dark Stars
by Audrey Grey
March 6, 2018 · Blaze Publishing, LLC
I am super impatient for the season three of The Expanse to start, with the wonder that is Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala, so when I saw this YA sci-fi romance with an amazing cover, I picked it up to help tide me over. Our Dark Stars is much more sci-fi action-adventure than it is romance, and it has more of a Happy for Now ending than I’d prefer, but I still enjoyed it.
Talia Starchaser is the heir to the throne of a galactic empire. The book opens on her eighteenth birthday, with her empire at war and Talia about to announce her engagement to a powerful ally. Humanity is fighting against the androids they built for slave labor, called Mocks. Mocks are not supposed to have free will, but a virus has changed all of that and now they are rebelling and attacking humans.
You know, based on a lot of sci-fi I’ve consumed, it’s always a super bad idea to create androids for slave labor. Or any other reason. Okay?
Anyway, Talia is at her engagement party when her douchebag husband-to-be demands she show her loyalty to humanity by destroying her personal attendant and companion, a Mock named Ailat (Talia spelled backwards). Talia has been friends with Ailat since childhood. Asking Talia to destroy Ailat is asking her to kill a friend, but if she fails to do so in a public setting, people will interpret her action as sympathy to the rebellion. Ailat, it turns out, was infected with the virus, and manages to fight and escape the scene.
A little while later, Talia’s family’s vessel is attacked by rebels and she is put in a lifepod and shoved out into space before the ship is destroyed.
Then we jump ahead 100 years. The Mocks have won the war and now rule the galaxy under a new Mock queen. Humans are subjugated and have formed their own rebellion.
Will Perrault is a half-Mock, half-human captain of a salvage vessel. It’s never really explained thoroughly how he’s half of each, and I’ll admit I found that confusing. He has a rag tag crew of misfits because of course he does. None of them are living in the lap of luxury.
They come across this thing floating in space that they think maybe they can sell and guess what! It’s Talia’s pod. It takes her awhile to figure out that it’s the future, her entire family is dead, her empire is destroyed, and that she’s probably going to be executed by the new queen.
Rather than immediately turn her over to the authorities, Will decides to do more research into who Talia is (she hasn’t told him for obvious reasons), and not at all because he likes her.
His crew meanwhile is all, “You’re doing this because you have pants feelings for her, aren’t you?”
And he’s like, “Shut up cuz I’m the Captain.”
So then, of course, the authorities start chasing them, including Will’s sociopathic brother Xander, but by now the crew has adopted Talia as one of their own and they aren’t going to let her go to her death. Meanwhile, Talia and Will dance around their attraction to each other.
This book has a lot of action. The world-building is woven in with the narrative in a way that keeps anything from stopping for too long, and it’s not a world that needs a ton of explanation either. It’s spaceships and androids and people shooting at each other basically. And a half-Mock Captain that I still don’t fully understand. Which half? I hope not the lower one….
The action scenes of the story kept me flipping pages so Our Dark Stars turned into a pretty quick read. It’s also got that familiar and addictive element of underdogs fighting against a very large system with little resources and little hope.
The romance in this book comes mostly at the end, and it is a HFN ending rather than a total resolution to Will and Talia’s situation. It makes sense though, and it leaves room for the reader to assume they will remain together. The sexual content stops at second base, but there are references to rape and violence, although very obliquely. I’d say this book is fine for a middle-school reader, but I also read a lot of Old Skool romance at 13 and I’m generally probably not the best parental figure. I let my niece watch TV at 8:30 pm on a school night while eating Twix directly out of the bag. In my defense, she did have late start the next day.
I really liked Will and his crew. I’m a sucker for a team of misfits flying around in space doing shit. I liked that they were a found family who took care of each other in real and meaningful ways. They are give each other crap in a way that felt accurate to a lot of “sibling” relationships.
I wasn’t crazy about how the romance was interspersed through the book. It makes the narrative uneven, focusing one minute on action, then quickly flipping to the romance, then back to the action in a way that kept Will and Talia’s developing relationship from being woven into the plot. The romance was back-loaded into the book, making it feel more like straight sci-fi for the first half.
Also I had a really, really hard time forgiving Talia for agreeing to kill Ailat for the Douchebro fiancé. She was in an impossible place, but I couldn’t forgive the cruelty she showed toward her friend. As a result a I lost a lot of sympathy for her, and when she finally had to pay for those actions, I wasn’t as invested in her redemption as I could be.
So while I would have appreciated a stronger romance subplot and a more sympathetic heroine, I did really enjoy this book for its sci-fi elements. At the time of this review, it was also 99 cents on Amazon, and I would say that’s worth that price for sure. In the end it got me through my Expanse withdrawal and that’s what I really needed it for.
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