Title:The Stars Now Unclaimed
Author: Drew Williams
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Dates read: 09 Apr 19 – 12 Apr 19
Publication date: 23 Aug 2018
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera
A century ago, a mysterious pulse of energy spread across the universe. Meant to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, it instead destroyed technology indiscriminately, leaving some worlds untouched and throwing others into total chaos.
The Justified, a mysterious group of super-soldiers, have spent a hundred years trying to find a way to restore order to the universe. Their greatest asset is the feared mercenary Kamali, who travels from planet to planet searching for gifted young people and bringing them to the secret world she calls home. Kamali hopes that those she rescues will be able to find a way to reverse the damage the pulse wreaked, and ensure that it never returns.
But Kamali isn’t the only person looking for answers to unimaginable questions. And when her mission to rescue a grumpy teenaged girl named Esa goes off the rails, Kamali suddenly finds herself smack in the centre of an intergalactic war… that she started.
*I received a copy of this book courtesy of Dark Room Tours and Simon and Schuster UK as part of their The Chain Across The Dawn Bookstagram/Blog Tour*
I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of this book in preparation for a blog and bookstagram tour of the sequel. I like Sci-Fi but haven’t read that much of it and saw this as a great opportunity to change that fact. It fell perfectly with Goodreads’ Sci-Fi week, and was an absolutely action packed, galaxy filled, humorous romp of a book!
I can’t help but start with Kamali (Jane Kamali – as we found out ¾ of the way through the book. I’m really not sure Jane suits her, it’s too….mundane Mum). She is fierce, intelligent, funny, pragmatic, and an absolute hero. Not a hero in the sense of a hero/heroine usually found in literally, but in the sense that she fights heroically in every sense of those words throughout the book. Whether it is tracking, flying, shooting, climbing, teaching, or making acquaintances, it is rare to find someone who is as accomplished as her. I love that the author tells us how great she is to start with, but instead of persisting to just tell us, through the course of the book he actually shows us how phenomenal she is at so many things and just how revered she is, something that is often lacking in books and is hugely appreciated. I love that he also didn’t detract from her femininity – she was still allowed to have friends, and a funny personality, and a love interest – and also left us feeling like there was a lot more that we don’t know than we do know about her.
I really love the vast array of characters that are either supporting or side characters throughout. Esa is a child with telekinetic powers that are unrivalled, but once she meets and is rescued by the mercenary Kamali (for there is no denying that she is a mercenary) she falls into a pattern of reverence and learning, and seeks to know as much as she can and then actually use it. I like that, despite her youth, Williams has given her a past that has instilled her with a sense of living and making the most of today that is often not understood until people are much older.
Esa, Shaz (Kamali’s) and sentient being Preacher (a being made from machinery – I don’t feel like robot like is the right word, but there is an element of that) accompany Kamali through the story, creating a square of different personalities that bounce off each to create an interesting and enjoyable dynamic. Where esa is youthful and exuberant and eager to learn, the Preacher is guarded and jaded and intensely suspicious of Kamali and everything she stands for. Her snark and sass throughout the book was delightful, and her knowledge base extraordinary, making her that brilliant blend of annoying and irreplaceable for the other characters.
Scheherazade (I assume named after the character that frames the One Thousand and One Nights stories) is the MVP of this book. The ship/AI is so quirky and amusing in the best kind of way and is as much a character as any of the sentient beings in the book. Kamali and Shaz have such a genuine relationship and it shows that they trust and know one another. I love that she is capable of second guessing the characters, and that her AI has been allowed to adapt and learn to the point that she is completely her own entity, from having OCD about cleanliness (literally) to keeping secrets from Kamali because Shaz still likes Javier – an old/recurrent love interest of Kamali’s and pirate/exile.
There are so many other great characters, such as Javier and Marus That I don’t really know where to begin in describing them. I like that Williams has made them all differ, in personality, in species, and does this so nonchalantly. Of course a universe of terraformed worlds would allow different species to evolve, and this is mentioned in such an obvious way that I really like. The diversity in species was really great, and I liked that this meant they had different strengths and weaknesses that weren’t juts told, but again shown. They use the characters and their diversity to flawlessly create sects and warring worlds’, and the Justified, a mysterious sect whom Kamali works for and whose aims and wants are those that the story is framed within.
The universe, and mainly the Justified’s home area sanctum, is pretty awesome, and I really love that we do get to experience a taste of more than one place. Whether it is a battle, flyby, pirate stop, or full blown war, we experience a variety of different place and learn as we go in the same way as Esa. I like that there is an element of recognisable physics and geology that underpins the universe like it does in ours, but that the author has just gone for it in describing and creating new places. The author seamlessly blended Earth bases knowledge, military tactics, and humour into the created universe and it really worked together.
My only drawbacks, and they were minor at best, related to the structure of the book. Yes, the book was one of the most action packed books I have ever read, I read too quickly too truly appreciate a shorter chapter or an Act structure. I also found elements of description to be slightly repetitive. I don’t know if this is because I devoured it so quickly so didn’t need the repetition, but it ever so slightly annoyed me at different points within the book. I can’t say either of these things are an issue with the writing style, just not 1000% perfect for me.
This book was pretty awesome. It was a badass space adventure and had all the feels of a true explorative ride. The characters were strong and independent, but unafraid to work together and rely on their strengths and weaknesses to form a complex and fascinating narrative. I like that Williams didn’t shy away from writing and showing us actual instead of descriptive action and strength, and I am pleased that there is a new badass female character out in the world to follow. I can’t wait to finish The Chain Across the Dawn!