Happy Saturday, guys!
Today, we're reviewing Starflight by Melissa Landers!
I've loved every book in Landers's Alienated series, so I was excited to read her take on a new world.
Starflight is a fun thrilling ride, and absolutely cements in my mind, that Landers is a solid, ever-growing voice in science fiction YA.
Expected publication: February 2nd 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Format read: ARC via publisher
it’s not like the law has ever been on her side.
Still, off-world travel doesn’t come cheap; Solara is left with no choice but to indenture herself in exchange for passage to the outer realm. She just wishes it could have been to anyone besides Doran Spaulding, the rich, pretty-boy quarterback who made her life miserable in school.
The tables suddenly turn when Doran is framed for conspiracy on Earth, and Solara cons him into playing the role of her servant on board the Banshee, a ship manned by an eccentric crew with their own secrets. Given the price on both Doran and Solara's heads, it may just be the safest place in the universe.
It’s been a long time since Solara has believed in anyone, and Doran is the last person she expected to trust. But when the Banshee’s dangerous enemies catch up with them, Solara and Doran must come together to protect the ship that has become their home—and the eccentric crew that feels like family.
After waiting months to read it, I couldn't wait any longer, and finally devoured the book in one sitting this weekend.
Things that worked:
Landers is the master of writing books with alternating points-of-view, and we definitely see that with Starflight.
Solara is smart and crafty, who is willing to do anything to survive. While she's clearly done questionable things, we completely understand her actions and her hope for just wanting a better future.
Though Doran initially comes off as a rich and spoiled bad boy, Landers uses his chapters to show his struggles with understanding his place in the world, and the mission left to him by his father. Landers does a wonderful job of showing how Doran gradually begins to open up to Solara and experiences that are different than his.
The secondary characters of Starflight are exquisite as well, with details and backstories behind each of them. While Starflight is very much Solara and Doran's story, Landers has set up the secondary characters to help contribute to the growing, overall tapestry of the world - a certain scene involving a mourning animal killed me a little - while also leaving plenty of room for their stories to be explored in the future.
Landers has proven time and again in her Alienated series that she's extraordinarily talented at world-building, and that talent shines through again in Starflight.
She's created a futuristic world that is highly believable, using elements from today's world to show how the strife of our reality has evolved into Solara's world. There's hyper inflation, indentured servitude and mass migration - something that is especially apt, considering the stories currently dominating today's news.
But even in Solara's new normal, Landers doesn't forget to also include the beauty and wonder of space. She creates exquisite worlds full of alien beauty, warring planets and the exhilarating freedom and lack of boundaries that come with space travel.
Throw in Lander's trademark snappy dialogue, and ability to write daring escapes and thrilling moments of fear and escape, Doran and the crew of The Banshee experience adventures that will have readers gripping their books and whooping in exhilaration absolutely as they read.
The relationship aspect
Landers has always been good at writing relationships that depict the slow burn, and Solara and Doran are no different.
They start off the book absolutely feeling loathing one another, and Landers carefully guides their interactions and conversations to show how their feelings begin to change over time. It's not a fast change by any stretch of the imagination; there are relapses that are painful and indicative of their respective histories.
But that's what makes each successive victory and positive evolution in their relationship all the more worth it, especially as Landers shows how their very differences are what make Solara and Doran such a good fit.
The deeper issues
While Landers follows a fairly familiar formula of misunderstood teenaged delinquent facing off with a rich and equally misunderstood heir, it's her writing and characterizations that help dig deep into the issues experienced by Solara and Doran.
We see just how challenging life can be for someone like Solara, born into a world without any of the financial or social advantages that individuals like Doran take for granted. Her life has been a constant struggle, and Landers skillfully shows how Solara's life, multiplied by the lives of all those who are like her, have contributed to a world where the genuine desolation of the outer planets seem like a fair deal.
But conversely, Landers also does a great job of highlighting the idea that despite someone's family wealth, it's always a struggle to stay on top. She reveals layer after layer of Doran's family struggles, including a particularly painful revelation in the latter half of the novel, that really emphasizes the idea that there are secrets behind every rich boy and rich family facade.
Landers has done a fantastic job of wrapping the immediate storyline for Solara and Doran, while leaving plenty of unresolved threads for future installments.
But even better, Landers has also created a world full of adventure and intrigue that is ripe for the exploring. I closed the book with the thought: "I REALLY want more of this world in any form", and that's definitely a sign that Landers has created an unforgettable world.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
Starflight is pretty flawless, and Landers has set the story up in a way that absolutely has me dying for the sequel. I'm sure that other readers will feel the same.
Their adventure through the stars is entertaining and fun, and will keep readers guessing, as the pair and their motley crew, outrun enemies, grow closer and become family.
Highly recommend for all readers. This is the type of book that gets the imaginations of readers soaring, and will have all of them clamoring for more.
About the author:
Melissa Landers (melissa-landers.com) is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public—just ask her husband and three kids. She lives outside Cincinnati and in the small town of Loveland, "Sweetheart of Ohio."