My rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars
Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Steampunk
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Published: October 15th, 2019
Diversity: LGBTQ+ (main characters)
The Lunar Chronicles meets Rook in this queer #OwnVoices science-fantasy novel, perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Sharon Cameron.
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first. – synopsis from Goodreads
“It wasn’t that she wanted to burn the world down, no. She just wanted the world to know that she could.”
I discovered Tarnished are the Stars while assisting at a Novel19 Twitter Chat at the beginning of the year. I was immediately drawn to it since it was a) LGBTQ+, b) sci-fi, and c) a little steampunk. I feel like steampunk is a lacking genre in YA novels. I read there was an ace character and I decided to request the arc as an ownvoice reviewer. I must say that it was a pretty fun book.
Tarnished are the Stars tells the story of an unlikely group of friends that set off to change the world. Anna is a tarnished, on this new terra-formed planet where technology is illegal, Anna as so many of her compatriot needs technology to survive. Nathaniel is the commissioner’s son, struggling for his father’s approval and love. Nathaniel plans to try and capture this Technician everyone is hunting down. By chasing the number one outlaw, he hopes to help his father in his quest to rid the planet from all means of technology. Eliza is the Queen’s eyes. She is sent to this planet to seek information and uncover what the commissioner would rather the Queen not know. As these three stories intertwine they will need to trust one another if they wish to fight for the good of their people and planet.
There are three points of view in this story. We follow Anna, Eliza, and Nathaniel as they discover hidden secrets about themselves and one another. For me, I felt like the stronger character was Nathaniel. He was the one that has the most growth character arc wise. He went from someone who believed what he was told to starting thinking for himself and making his own decisions. We could see him struggle with a lot of his perceptions as with his sexuality. Nathaniel knows he is different from others in that way. He doesn’t feel any attraction towards anyone. He sees the way others look at each other but doesn’t desire or feel the need for that type of relationship. It’s only when someone else suggests it, that he fully understands that he is in fact asexual. I’m excited to see that we are getting more on-page various ace characters in YA lately, especially this year. It’s very refreshing and means a ton to me to be able to read about characters that I can identify with. As with Nathaniel, it also took me a while to understand that I was ace. If I had books like these growing up with characters struggling to understand their own feelings I might have understood mine a lot sooner, lol. As for the other two characters, though they are very present in the story, I would’ve liked to see a bit more development in their arc. Since this is a stand-alone I believe the story moved really fast and it didn’t seem like these two evolved. They felt a bit static to me.
I did enjoy Rosiee Thor’s writing style. She shows great potential for future books. Tarnished are the Stars did feel like a debut which isn’t a bad thing at all. It lacked a bit on the world-building though it did have enough for me to understand the essence of it. I would’ve wanted a bit more from it. Why is there a need for a new planet? When did we leave earth? Just some tidbits that would’ve made it more developed. Sometimes in sci-fi or fantasy, it’s hard to cram so much in a stand-alone. Things are left out.
There is some dark themes to this book so make sure you saw the TW at the top. Overall, I did enjoy Tarnished are the Star even if I had a few issues with some aspects of it. It was fast-paced and had great LGBTQ+ representation.