I‘m a real sucker for survival romances. Add in numerous societal obstacles, a delicious love/hate relationship, dual narration, a crashing space liner, an unsettling alien world, and some possible, awkward huddling together for warmth (What?! It may be cliché, but it works… for me.) and I’m sold. One ticket for the starship Icarus, please!
Er… or for their escape pods, rather?
In the days leading up to the destruction of the Icarus, we are introduced to Major Tarver Merendson, a decorated military hero at the ripe old age of 18, who’s been invited (i.e. – ordered) to hobnob with Society’s elite aboard the spaceliner in what is supposed to be a morale-boosting, connection-making, goodwill PR attempt for Tarver’s commanding officers. At one such function, a red-headed girl catches his eye – ok, both eyes and his undivided attention. Unfortunately for him, the girl turns out to be Lilac LaRoux, untouchable debutante princess whose daddy keeps her locked away in an ivory tower… or perhaps more accurately in this case, an unfortunately christened spaceship that’s touted to be the Titanic of the stars. A chance encounter between them sparks a growing mutual attraction that Lilac is desperate to nip in the bud before her ruthless father takes a metaphorical weed whacker to it. So she rejects Tarver’s interest, publicly and cruelly.
Then the Icarus goes belly up, and by a twist of fate Lilac & Tarver end up in the same escape pod.
Talk about awkward.
Now stranded on a strange planet together, they must survive not only each other, but must depend on each other to survive until rescue comes.
Fun times. Eh?
So let’s talk characters…
Lilac. Pampered princess? Yes. But for all the privilege and comforts Lilac has been born to, for all that her character could’ve been annoying and ridiculously entitled, Lilac is actually quite a likable character. And at her heart, she is a surprisingly kind, practical, analytical person. She shows amazing strength, perseverance and tenacity in the face of great adversity. Lilac’s evolution as a character is fabulous, and while I liked her at the beginning of the novel, I ended up loving her. Her character just surprised and delighted in… wonderfully surprising, original ways.
Tarver. I love that Tarver gets to tell his half of the story too, and the vignettes from his interrogation that are sprinkled throughout are a nice touch. His cool head and cleverness under pressure make for fun reading as he verbally spars and parries with his questioners. Tarver is simply kind of adorable – noble, understanding, down-to-earth, decent, and intuitive. But he’s also tough, capable and confident, an admirable leader. His journey as a character was also interesting, though a bit rough on the heart. And I have to say that while I understand the direction his development took, I liked his character more at the beginning of the novel than at its end.
Romance. Good stuff, good stuff! Yeah. Tempestuous relationships in survival situations where forced close proximity for warmth may be required? Always fun to read. (Oh, come on. It is. Admit it.) And the added complications of difference in status, what happens once they’re back in the “real” world, and the looming threat of an overprotective Daddy-Dearest, just make it all the more dramatic and angsty. Yum, yum, yum, delicioso! This story is unabashedly a romance. A romance with space ships.
And can I just say “Yay! Yay for sci-fi romance!” Because These Broken Stars is a love story unapologetically mixed with some awesomely decent sci-fi. <soap box> Maybe this is just me, but I feel like romance is sometimes viewed as making the story “lesser” in a genre that has largely and long been populated by fanboys. As for me, I’ve been a sci-fi fan since I was four and fell in total puppy-love with a roguish smuggler (and his super awesome spaceship with a spotty hyperdrive) who was trying to evade bounty hunters on the backwater world of Tatooine. As I grew up, the Han-’n'-Leia-kissing-in-spaceships-I-Love-You-I-Know-while-the-universe-tragically-crashes-down-around-their-ears angle was one of my biggest draws to rewatching and original trilogy movie marathons. All that to say, there’s an established and growing fanbase of women who are fangirl-crazy-bananas about the genre, and it’s nice to see more and more sci-fi from a female perspective, especially in YA. So thank you, Amie & Meagan.</soap box> But anyway, to sum up: sci-fi + romance = my heart pitter-pattering a little faster. And These Broken Stars does a great job with both.
Story. Why do I love sci-fi? Because it’s literally and figuratively “out there.” It’s weird. It’s strange. It’s awkward. It has the potential for amazing originality because absolutely anything is possible. And These Broken Stars delivered in the original and weird department. Just some really great plot twists and devices in this story that had me thinking, “Wow. That was really cool! I mean, not ideal perhaps, because my heart just dropped down to my toes, but you went there and that’s cool!” Great pacing too. Pretty fast moving as Lilac and Tarver endeavor to get themselves rescued.
World. While you don’t get to see much of the worlds that Tarver and Lilac come from, the glimpses given are very intriguing, and I’d love to see more of this very class-hierarchy, Victorian-throwback, space-faring society. The world that the two of them are stranded on is vividly depicted and developed, and as previously stated, the sci-fi elements are well done… and a bit creepy too. Good creee-eeepy.
Overall. A strong start to a fantastic new sci-fi trilogy that is romantically thrilling, refreshingly original, heart-stoppingly chilling, and wonderfully “other.”