Review: Starglass - Phoebe North
Starglass by Phoebe North
Series: Starglass #1
Genre: YA, science fiction
Published on July 23, 2013
Published by Simon & Schuster
Read From: 10.26.13 - 10.28.13
Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a boring job and living with a grieving father who only notices her enough to yell, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she's got.
But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain's guard murdering an innocent man, Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath the Asherah's idyllic surface. As she's drawn into a secret rebellion that aims to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares about most. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the choice of a lifetime - one that will shape the fate of her people.
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes, I do rather like the cover art. It's somehow very intriguing, and I love how it looks like a drawn picture. There's a character impersonator, but you can't see her face, and I love the blue-purple color and the sci-fi/fantasy feel of it. And the book felt like it was going to be the same way, too! Sadly, it took a nosedive.
Characters: I thought I liked Terra at first. I sympathized with her situation; her jerky, uncaring, and stubborn father constantly beating down her wishes and desires, and then being assigned a job she could not have cared less about. But Terra's lack of moral behavior quickly turned my good opinion sour. She's not interested in having a loving relationship; she just wants sex. At least she admits that that's what she wants, I suppose, but I didn't like her any more for it. Her indecision whether or not to commit to the Children of Abel's cause (i.e. the rebels) drove me up a wall. Silvan was a jerk and a creep (mostly a jerk; how could you like someone who slighted your childhood friend simply because she was of a lower standing than him?), and Rachel was just kind of there. I liked Koen - no, I adored Koen. He was shy and a little awkward, but polite and hard working. But the Author ruined him totally (more on that later). About the only character I liked consistently was Mara Stone (and yes, I resent her having my first name). Brusque and opinionated, she was the classic mentor character, and I just can't help but like them. She was also the only moral person in the cast.
The Romance: Probably not surprisingly, this is one of the story's weak points, but unfortunately not the only one. Terra isn't interested in having a deep relationship; she only wants to find someone who will fulfill her sexual dreams. She keeps having recurring dreams of some mysterious guy that she "does it" with amid exotic flowers, and this is her basis for a romantic relationship: she wants someone to make those dreams come true. Personality, political, and moral opinions has nothing to do with it. So you can imagine how disgusted I got with her when she starts fooling around with Silvan, who she doesn't like. But her times with him in bed are so amazing that she's going to ignore everything wrong about it. Hm. And by the way, there is nothing likable about Silvan at all. He dumps Rachel because she's a mere merchant, and he is to be the next captain, so Rachel is beneath him. He only notices Terra after she is assigned to the botanist, and then he goes on a litany of how they'll produce superior offspring due to their superior genetics. Romantic, huh?
Plot: Earth is no longer inhabitable, because an asteroid hit it (I think; it never did actually say whether the earth got hit or was just going to be hit). What remains of humanity has boarded giant spaceships so large they are an entire city, complete with forests and fields and climate. These ships are destined for a new planet, where humanity might thrive once more. It is to be a 500-year voyage, and there is no guarantee that the ships will make it. Terra is on board the Asherah, and it is all she has known. Life aboard is very strict; the Council decides where you work, who you can marry, and how many children you can have. Everything is tradition and any questioning of the Council is treason. Terra doesn't question much until she witnesses one of the captain's guard murdering an innocent man. Her witness and her assignment to work as a botanist soon catches the interest of a group of rebels called the Children of Abel. They are convinced that if something isn't done with the Council, their tyrannical rule with continue even after the Asherah has reached its destination. And with Terra's status as a scientific officer, she is in a perfect spot to help them. But do the Children of Abel really want what's best for the people on board? So Starglass is a bit dystopian, and I liked the world setup. A totally self-sustaining city - practically a miniature world - in a spaceship; a totalitarian Council; a murder; rebels - it was all good! And the Author threw something interesting in. In a lot of dystopian novels, the prevailing cultural beliefs are secularism, some forms of Christianity, et cetera. But the Author chose Judaism as the governing traditions and culture; the religious aspect of Judaism had vanished in the mists of time. I found it to be a very interesting choice; having never read a novel that did this. Please don't accuse me of being antisemitic, because I'm not saying it bothered me - not at all! It was just interesting and new. I actually rather liked it. It gave the world-building a very unique and original feel because it has never been done before, as far as I know. Putting world-building aside, the rest of the novel was a flop. The Author had a perfect setup with the murder and the rebels, but she spent more time on Terra's lustful dreams and indecision on whether or not to really join the Children of Abel, that the plot just plodded its way through everything. I got tired of reading about Terra's lust, for one thing, and I also felt like she never actually became all that terribly important to the rebellion. They could have very easily accomplished what they wanted without her help - [Spoiler] in fact, they do! [End spoiler]
Believability: No secret police. Sadness.
Writing Style: First person, past tense. I really liked the writing style; it was very emotional and descriptive. I would have been perfectly fine if there had been fewer descriptions of strings of silver saliva, raw lips, raw flesh, hot hands, hips pressed together, and the like. But the other descriptive writing was very good indeed.
Content: So I said I liked Koen. And I also said that the Author then ruins him beyond all possible belief. Take a guess at how they ruin him. Read on if you don't mind the book being spoiled: [Spoiler] I was actually really rooting for Terra and Koen to become romantic; I liked them as a couple. But suddenly a young man name Van appears on the scene, and before I knew it, that horrible niggling feeling I was getting in my gut was proven to be correct: Koen is gay! Terra finds him and Van making out in a bush. But Koen goes from just being gay to a total creep, because once Terra finds out, Koen tells her that they could still get married, and Koen would learn to love her, only in a different way from how he loved Van. [End Spoiler] If you've read the spoiler, then you can only imagine the depth my irritation, of my despair, of my absolute anger. I almost threw the book across the room. I'm through with having favorite male characters. After what Rick Riordan did to Nico di Angelo in The House of Hades, I'm just done. Other than that, sexual content is more sensual than anything. Silvan and Terra never actually have sex, though they do everything else. Terra's dreams are never in any extreme detail, but their meaning it very evident.
Conclusion: Finally, Starglass takes one last plunge. Terra's lack of usefulness to the rebellion is at long last made evident, and suddenly Terra comes to the radical conclusion that the Children of Abel are in fact wrong about everything. She makes this decision based on one little fact, and quite honestly, I had to wonder why she came to such a conclusion. And how did she come to it so rapidly? What happened exactly to make her change her mind about them? Starglass started out with a huge amount of promise. After 50 pages, I prepared myself to settle down and thoroughly enjoy this book. Then there was the "twist" with Koen, and it was just downhill from there. I disliked Terra and eventually even Rachel, the plot sagged, and the ending was completely unsatisfactory. I couldn't understand Terra's reasoning behind anything that she did. So while there may be a sequel for the rest of the world, there will be none for me.
Recommended Audience: Girl-read, eighteen-and-up.
Others in This Series: