I don't often like to review a book waaaaay before it comes out, so this is less of a review, and more of a squee with a few salient details you could find on the back of the novel. I posted this review for the first time in August, because I Could. Not. Wait. Not even a little bit. I'm happy to reread this book this month, and I really enjoyed this book; it was unashamedly a love story -- but a love between sisters and extended family first -- even when the family didn't extend very far. This holiday season, Tessa Elwood's INHERIT THE STARS is going to be a little early gift you give yourself... stop shopping or worrying about shopping, stop sniffling and whinging about your cold. Make yourself the perfect pot of tea, and snuggle in.
Yeah, I know that doesn't sound like anything you want to do when it's 82°F. But you will want to, months from now. Trust me.
Summary: Fane, Westlet, Galton. Three households, all alike in dignity, in the fair interplanetary space where we set our tale... but this isn't Romeo and Juliet in space -- it's quite possibly even more contentious.
Fane is in trouble. Not that you'd know it - the royal house of Fane never sags, never falters, never does anything but stand tall and smile. At least, not since Asa's mother left them for the Lord of Galton when Asa was three -- taking some of Fane's vital resources with her. That was years ago, but things have gone downhill in the sixteen years since, and Fane's people are rioting, fed up with the austerity measures which have left them all low on fuel - freezing - and starving. Wren, Asa's eldest sister, and the Heir, always smiled for the cameras -- no matter what. But now Wren is comatose, having been caught in a bombing, middle sister Emmie is being sold off to Westlet in marriage to their Heir, in return for food shipments and Asa's father... is going to make it so Em being the eldest and his Heir ...is the literal truth.
The overlooked and patronized youngest, her hair prickly and thin on her recently-shorn head, Asa is no one's choice for a solution to life's problems. She's been passed over for looks, is gangling, clumsy, and talks too much when she's scared - which is a lot, lately. She's also been told she's just like her mother for too long. Part of the mess they're in is her fault -- and she's determined to fix it. She's Fane - no matter the cost. The first thing she needs to do is take Emmie's place with the arranged marriage... and all the rest should fall into place after that. Right?
Peaks: It's not often that a novel written in the first person still manage plot twists. Though we have eyewitness accounts and firsthand seeing of everything, the reader still finds some surprises. Asa's gift is that she doesn't quite understand herself, thus the reader is able to be caught off guard by various things.
There are few YA novels which tell the true repercussions of war and feature differently abled bodies and prostheses without some sort of practically super-power witty banter or compensatory good looks to make up for it -- that's not the case here.
The tension in this book just doesn't let up. From the first moment, there's chaos and trouble. Asa is a well-meaning girl with a good, loving heart -- but sometimes love isn't enough, unless it's coupled with cunning and braced with quick thinking. Asa makes every sacrifice count -- and does her utmost to plug all of the leaks, but Fane has been in isolation for thirteen years -- it's too much to expect for Fane and Westlet to make a perfect treaty. There is treachery threatening from every direction...
Another unexpected positive is the character descriptions - unexpected diversity.
Valleys: While I had no problems, some readers find rather cinematic narrative descriptions lacking in continuity and difficult to follow. They become confused, because of the amount of action in the first several chapters. I had to track back to find ages of the daughters, which seem to be obscured deliberately, but otherwise had no real issues. Some of what Asa thinks and says is metaphoric instead of literal, and at times, when the narrative to me could have used being more detailed and descriptive, in terms of the technology, for instance, there's a bit of fuzziness about what will and won't work to save everyone -- it goes a little Star Trek fuzzy there, but because I'm not particularly technical, I could suspend my belief for that.
Despite three houses and planets, it seems that most characters are described in the novel as some version of "American standard," - and though I liked the cover, I found myself wishing I knew a little more of the planetary history and how humans had gotten there -- but I was also okay not knowing that.
Conclusion: I love mystery, politics and romance all in one novel, and Asa is an awkwardly young, earnest, and at times completely wrong-for-it heroine who really works. With its romance limited on a very innocent beginning, I can see this being a big, swoopy romantic favorite for older middle graders looking for a challenging plot, too.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of Running Press in Philly. After December 8th, 2015, you can find INHERIT THE STARS by debut author Tessa Elwood at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!