These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Starbound, #1)
Published December 10, 2013 by Hyperion, 374 pp.
Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of These Broken Stars when I finished reading it, probably because of the whiplash that ending gave me, but thinking back, I really liked the book. It’s fast-paced, the universe (literally) is vivid, the characters come off the pages, and I just know that wherever this series is going to take me next, I’m all aboard.
These Broken Stars opens aboard the Icarus, a brand-spanking new intergalactic cruise ship, like a future Titanic of sorts – there’s a party, and it’s attended by high society, with a few high-ranking military officers in the mix. It’s in this party we first meet our heroes, Lilac LaRoux, heiress, and Tarver Merendsen, newly promoted to Major. Their first meeting goes smoothly, but the next time they meet, it isn’t so pleasant – because Lilac knows what happens to people when they get too close to her, and she isn’t about to subject Tarver to that. So she does what’s typically expected of her – shove their difference in status in his face. Unfortunately, when the Icarus crashes, she and Tarver are the only ones left alive, and with no rescue in sight, they’ll have to work together to survive. But the planet they’ve landed on is odd – there’s no human population, despite the conditions being conducive to human life, and even as a couple of days pass, there are no rescue ships even near the site of Icarus’ crash. What they do find eventually though, is a building – it’s unoccupied, but it has supplies, and they could use it to send out distress signals. But as they explore the inside, it raises more questions – about why exactly this planet is uninhabited, what happened to the people who had been here before, and why exactly rescue hasn’t found them yet.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I was expecting when I first started reading These Broken Stars, but a survival story with quite a healthy dose of mystery isn’t one of them. This is a pretty fast-paced, plot-driven book – part-survival, part-romance, a bit of mystery, in less than 400 pages. Basically, it’s a lot to cram in a relatively short page count, but I think the authors did a good job of painting a cohesive and vibrant universe, and making the characters come alive.
I’m glad that Tarver and Lilac are both strong characters, and they’re written so well, because we get to know both of them better as the story goes along. This is also why I liked the dual POV – I don’t think I would’ve liked them as much as I did by the end if their thoughts and actions didn’t have any context. The inclusion of character quirks – like Tarver and his poetry (get you a guy that can do both, YOU GO LILAC!), and Lilac and her engineering skills – also made them feel more human, more approachable in a way. I also like their character development throughout the book – like they were still Tarver and Lilac, but with a much deeper understanding of the world around them, and the maturity that comes with surviving on an uninhabited planet with extremely limited supplies and options.
Also, despite jumping between two characters the story still flowed smoothly. The shift between two POVs wasn’t jarring, and it gave a more comprehensive view of the Tarver and Lilac’s situation on the planet.
Their romance is slow-burn, since they already had prejudiced views about each other from the beginning (Lilac is a spoiled, entitled brat, Tarver sticks to protocol and thinks he knows what best to do in every situation), and it’s compounded by the fact that they still find each other intriguing and attractive. How do they deal with it? By constantly pissing each other off. So they fight more often than not at first, but they do get over that as they come to rely on each other more. It’s also more intense by the end, which I loved because by then I was already rooting for them so hard. I love that Lilac was ready to fight for them – not that Tarver wasn’t, but it’s because he’s the more practical, realistic one. What chance does he have as a foot soldier against LaRoux Industries? But Lilac decides takes things into her own hands now, and I was silently saying “yaaaas” out loud during her whole speech:
“I’m not fourteen anymore.” She lifts herself up on one elbow, gazing at me. “My father is powerful, changing the galaxy to suit him, but he’s not going to change this. He’s strong, but I’d fight him.” Her blue eyes are grave, determined–calm. “I’d fight for you.”
Overall, a solid book. It lays the ground for the subsequent books well, and also manages to wrap up its own story neatly. I also like that I could see everything play out in my head, almost like a movie – it’s a great feeling whenever that happens, and in this book particularly, because I’m new to the whole sci-fi/space shebang.
5 stars! This was a refreshing change from my usual fantasy fare, and I’m glad I picked it up.
There’s a lot more to this book than what one might think, and I loved it. Fast-paced plot, but not lacking in details.
Tarver and Lilac are great characters, and they have their flaws – which I liked. The dual POV gives us a good glimpse into their thoughts and how it influences their actions.
GIVE ME MY OWN TARVER. Or at least a guy who can traipse around a jungle with as much skill and still tote around his own little notebook of poetry. But he wouldn’t be that Tarver without Lilac, so fine – they’re almost like a power couple, especially by the end.