Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review: Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Sky Without Stars
   Series: System Divine Book 1
Authors: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: Hardcover; 592
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Source: Publisher / FFBC Tours
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Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy retellings with vivid characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
A thief. An officer. A guardian.
Three strangers, one shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.
Settle in friends, because this is going to be a fairly long review. I was deeply excited for Sky Without Stars, since Les Miserables is one of my favorite stories of all time. While there were a lot of portions of this story that caught me up in their magic, there were also a fair amount of issues I had that kept me from really loving story. Once again, I find myself with a book that has me sitting right on that proverbial fence. So bear with me while I sort it all out.

First, let's talk setting. Laterre is an an absolutely fascinating setting for this story to talk place. Imagine the dregs of a world that was supposed to be a new start for the masses. A place that promises a fair chance for fair work, but in reality just enslaves over half of its population for the benefit of the wealthy. That on its own is already an amazing setting for a retelling of this nature, but add in the fact that there are science fiction elements galore and you have a space that truly amazed me. Les Miserables in space is a perfect description, and you're in for a treat when you visit Laterre.

In terms of the story line, it actually sticks fairly closely to the original subject matter that it is pulling from. Of course there are differences, since this is a YA book that is set in space, but I enjoyed the fact that Brody and Rendell honored the original story so well. You can see glimpses of Jean Valjean, Eponine, and Inspector Javert. I could see the story unfolding in a similar manner to the original story. A revolt. A rebellion. Unfolding love. Terrible tragedies.

So what made this a three star read? First off, the characters were rough to love. While I saw their counterparts firmly in my head, all of them but Chatine had no depth for me. Marcellus is frustratingly unsure of himself throughout this whole book. Alouette is just that lost little girl who needs people to save her over and over again. I found myself skimming their chapters because they were just so slow. If this whole book had revolved around Chatine (which yes, I know it wouldn't make any sense that way) I would have loved it. She was the fierce peasant, the wily street rat. In other words, my favorite kind of character. Her chapters are what helped me make it through this story.

Which leads to the fact that, yes, this story is lengthy. While the writing is well done, and not too flowery, there are definite portions that felt like they dragged well beyond what they needed to be. This is a tome, to be honest. I completely understand that the source material is also this long, having read both the book and watched the musical, but there's something that's a bit lost in translation in Sky Without Stars. It doesn't feel like the length adds to anything, but more tends to slowly pull the reader out of the story being laid out in front of them. I think if this book had been just a little shorter, focusing more on character development, I would have loved it that much more.

As it stands, I rate this a solid three star read. It wasn't my favorite book, but it does have potential. Since this is the first in a series, I'll probably pick up the next book to see how things evolve. Perhaps my characters will pick themselves up a bit, and things will move along at a quicker pace.

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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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