A thief. An officer. A guardian. Three strangers, one shared destiny . .
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
Sky Without Stars
Series: System Divine #1
Author: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count: 592
Genre: Young Adult, Science-Fiction, Retelling
My Rating: ★★★★★
I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.
Content Warning: Violence, Torture, Death/Execution, Persecution, Prejudice, Murder, Oppression, Gangs, Abuse
Les Miserables is a massive book. It’s an even larger task to unpack everything within its text. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to try and create a retelling of this classical tale. Yet, authors Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell did it. And, they did a heck of a job at it! Just to emphasize their accomplishment a bit further—they wrote a retelling of one of the most iconic classical tales, and set it in space, while still keeping true to the original story.
You guys, I won’t be able to get over this book for a while. Thank goodness it’s a part of a series, so I don’t have to completely die…yet…from book hangover! Probably one of the biggest issues I have with the Young Adult genre is that there isn’t an overabundance of quality writing. You know, like with actual world building, setting description, and, for the love of all things good, further rendering of a character beyond their hair and eye color! The characters of Sky Without Stars are made of flesh and bone, sinew and blood. They have personalities with depth and harbor layers of emotion. The best part about these characters is that nothing is easy. Each and every character has a life full of raw, merciless experience—a true reflection of what Les Miserables aims to portray.
At first, I actually was trying to figure out which character represented who. It didn’t take too long to figure it out, but I relished the “revelations” when they occurred. I don’t even want to share who is who because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so I won’t.
The System Divine offered hope. Hope to the inhabitants of a dying world. With its three beautiful Sols and twelve habitable planets, the miraculous system would become a new home. A new start. A place where twelve powerful families could begin again.
The world-building, I do want to unpack a bit. Set in a dystopian time long after Earth was left behind by mankind, this story takes place on Laterre, a rainy planet within the System Divine. The three Sols (suns) have been invisible behind grey rain clouds for years, making the place dismal, to say the least. The inhabitants are split up into three factions–estates.
“Every estate has its place and purpose. The First Estate rules us, like the brain governing the body. We, the Second Estate, are the heart, providing the power and pulse. While the Third Estate are the legs on which we all stand.”
While the Third Estate are intended to be the working class, poverty, starvation, violence, and gangs run rampant among its participants. The Third Estate is no class to be envious of. “Lucky” for them, the annual Ascension is the event to look forward to. If one remains a good and faithful laborer, they are entered into a drawing to become part of the elite class and win a new life. The Ascension resembles the selection that takes place in The Hunger Games, and serves a similar, yet different role. This chance of escape isn’t an encouragment for all, though, as a life of crime serves to be more enduring for some.
”Laterre is the envy of the System Divine because of how well our beautiful body functions.”
While crime runs rampant, the Second Estate, the “policemen” if you will, are comprised of men, cyborgs, and robots. They serve to root out the fallen, and protect the system in place. When whispers of the Vanguard returning begin to surface of their attempts to overthrow it, the two upper estates dole out cruelty and force to keep the massive Third Estate at bay.
As the three main characters, (along with many other prominent ones) live out their lives, their stories become intricately woven together. Chatain, Marcellus, and Alouette, by chance, experience the unpleasantness of life more together than apart. While Chatain and Alouette are very solid characters, I felt Marcellus blundered around a bit. I love seeing strong male characters, and wished he had fit that bill instead of playing the naive. I get why his character is this way, due to his father’s history and Marcellus’ elaborate upbringing, but I felt he should have been more vigorous that he was.
Lastly, I just want to say that this book has been compared to The Lunar Chronicles. Yes, there are some similarities—limited to the fact that this is a retelling set in space. That’s where the line ends. This book surpasses The Lunar Chronicles by far in every aspect, but especially in overall quality, character development, and plot ingenuity. This is one of the best Young Adult books that I’ve read in a long time, as well as a new favorite, for certain. I can’t wait to read the sequel, which I hope is coming sooner than later!
Sexual content: Minimal.
Violence: Quite a bit.
My Rating: ★★★★★
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