Thursday, October 19, 2023

Review: These Burning Stars by Bethany Jacobs


These Burning Stars by Bethany Jacobs
Publication Date: October 17th, 2023
Paperback. 464 pages.

About These Burning Stars:

"Jun Ironway—hacker, con artist, and occasional thief—has gotten her hands on a piece of contraband that could set her up for proof that implicates the powerful Nightfoot family in a planet-wide genocide seventy-five years ago. The Nightfoots control the precious sevite that fuels interplanetary travel through three star systems. And someone is sure to pay handsomely for anything that could break their hold.

Of course, anything valuable is also dangerous. The Kindom, the ruling power of the star systems, is inextricably tied up in the Nightfoots’ monopoly—and they can’t afford to let Jun expose the truth. They task two of their most brutal clerics with hunting her preternaturally stoic Chono, and brilliant hothead Esek, who also happens to be the heir to the Nightfoot empire.

But Chono and Esek are haunted in turn by a figure from their shared past, known only as Six. What Six truly wants is anyone’s guess. And the closer they get to finding Jun, the surer Chono is that Six is manipulating them all. ​

It's a game that could destroy their lives and devastate the stars. And they have no choice but to see it through to the end."

These Burning Stars is a debut epic sci-fi space opera that I would say is perfect for fans of Arkady Martine's Texicalaan duology. It's complex, grand in scope, and has a lot of really neat things going for it–I fully agree with other comments I've seen about this book being a stunning sci-fi debut. That being said, I also struggled with this book a little and didn't personally end up loving it as much as I'd hoped I might. It's hard to say why These Burning Stars didn't work for me exactly because when I break things down individually, I feel like the individual parts and components are really well done. But somehow when reading this novel as a whole something just prevented me from really connecting more with the story.

These Burning Stars' chapters alternate between past and present in order to give readers some context and firmly cement them in everything going on in the present. I found some aspects of this switching around confusing, but overall I appreciated getting some more answers and a better grounding to what's going on in this complex world. 

There is a huge variety of characters in this book and quite a large number of them run around on the morally grey scale, which I always enjoy in my books. They are incredibly multi-faceted and the author really takes the time to establish their backstories and showcase the many different aspects of who their character is. We follow a couple different POVs, which provides some insight into different lifestyles and roles in this world and how that does or does not affect each characters' individual motivations and viewpoint, and I appreciated getting such a thorough glimpse into the world through each character.

However, I also struggled with these characters. Despite the fact that they were well-developed and certainly had very distinct personalities, there was still something about the way they were written that just didn't bring them fully to life to me. It was as if I was reading all about these characters and all the different things they did without really feeling as if the characters were really anything more than words on a page. Does that makes sense? I realize that sounds a bit silly, but I hope you can understand what I mean. All of this caused me to struggle quite a bit with our characters, who are naturally quite crucial to the story. 

The plot itself is incredibly multi-layered and has so much to explore. I am genuinely impressed with how much Jacobs has created and clearly carefully planned out such an intricate story. Whether you are someone who enjoys back and forth timelines or not, it's clear that every detail and scene is placed at each moment with purpose that helps the overall narrative flow–which seems difficult to do with such an expansive world!

I think my biggest struggle was with the writing style and how it affected the pacing. The pacing itself in regard to the plotting was fairly consistent and worked well, but something about Jacobs' writing style made it feel almost as if the story meandered a lot. There is a lot of time spent describing or explaining things in ways that felt excessive and really made me attention waiver. I just kept feeling like I wanted to get to the next page or almost as if I could've skipped huge amounts that wouldn't have affected the plot itself. I appreciate the intricate world-building Jacobs created, so I wouldn't necessarily want less of that, but perhaps some slightly tighter writing to bring it altogether in a more cohesive manner. This book just felt like a lot of work, which isn't necessarily a bad thing because there's nothing wrong with having to really work for our reads, but it wasn't really the most enjoyable form of work for me. 

Despite my struggles with this book, I am generally still interested in continuing the rest of this series and have high hopes that once I'm further enmeshed in this world I'll feel more connected to it. I fully believe this is a case of "it's me, not the book" and I just didn't click with it right now, but I'll maybe re-read it sometime to see if that helps me feel more familiarized with it. Overall, I've given These Burning Stars 3.75 stars!

*I received a copy of These Burning Stars courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

1 comment:

  1. I've picked this up twice and put it down, so I may end up with similar feelings. I'm definitely finishing it but it's very dense and disconnected at the moment.