Summer + COVID Lockdown = Jessica reading whatever the heck she wants!
I made the choice early on in the pandemic that I was going to dramatically slash my blog tour commitments and use my reading to feed happiness when the world descended into the symbolic dumpster fire that is 2020. So fair warning friends, the vast majority of the reviews that I post in the coming weeks are going to be YA, mostly fantasy, and probably part of a series that I started ages ago and just recently got around to finishing (because my heart needed to know the ending).
First up, This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – the second book in the epic Starbound series.
Title: This Shattered World
Series Title: Starbound
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Publication Date: December 23, 2014
Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Themes: Romance, Rebellion, Cost of war, Fight the state
My Rating: 4/ 5
The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.
Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.
Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.
Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.
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If you had told me that I would end up falling in love with a YA SciFi series heavy on the fuck-the-corporation sentiment (which I’m almost always there for) and heavier yet on the romance I would have laughed and said yeah right. But guess what? I’m kind of obsessed.
I checked out These Broken Stars a while back because it was available for immediate listening through my library’s Libby platform and because I had loved Kaufman’s collaboration on The Illuminae Files. I knew going into this series that there was going to be more focus on the romance than I typically enjoy, but I was looking for light and fun while still being cerebral, and I most definitely found it.
I adored the flipped gender roles with our heroine being the snarky and mysteriously resilient soldier, and the reluctant hero being an idealistic soft-boy pacifist (though why this has to be read as flipped gender roles is an entirely different discussion). They both exhibit and command different modes of loyalty and pathways to honour, and when combined together highlight the reality of disparate narratives on major issues.
At the start of the book they both start off firmly entrenched in their ideals but quickly fall into the grey space that comes with having their beliefs rocked to the core. This ambiguity provides the foundations for some serious character development and when combined with the generous exploration of their emotional wounds creates characters that are both easy to fall in love with and even easier to root for.
To top it all off, the enemies to lovers trope is used exceptionally well. While there is certainly a touch of instant attraction, this attraction remains an appreciation of physicality until the characters are given the grounds and opportunity to develop a legitimate romantic attraction. The romance is both sweet and complicated, but the challenges presented ultimately bring them together in realistic ways.
Normally a trilogy suffers from second book syndrome where the first book is amazing and does a fabulous job of setting the stage, book two carries things along and builds a lot of tension without a whole lot of action, and then book three is the big finale with all the fireworks. I am pleased to say that second book syndrome is not at all present here! In choosing to have each book focus on a different romantic arc with only cameos from the other instalments, This Shattered World is a self-contained bundle of excitement that doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘slow’.
The world building in this book is second to none. It’s got an extensive backstory layering historical precedent with political depth, and an evocative setting reminiscent of a cross between Higgin’s Moon from Firefly and Star War’s Dagobah. In stepping away from the empty world discovered by Lilac and Tarver and onto societally fraught Avon, we get to explore the whispers and the corporation that’s abused them from an entirely different angle. Readers are presented with corruption, class suppression, and bigotry at every turn and must work to unpack the messages buried beneath the action and romance.
Though this book was published nearly six years ago, I have no doubt that today’s teen readers would have no problem drawing parallels to the corporate and political corruption running rampant in the world today. It might be Sci-Fi, but all the best fiction has foundation in reality.