I was given the opportunity to read this book as an ARC through edelweiss but this hasn’t affected my views of the book. I’m going to start off saying I didn’t really enjoy this book and this will be a bit of a salty review so if you’re not looking to have your opinion of this book tarnished then you should probably leave. There may be minor spoilers.
A Conspiracy of Stars is the start of a young adult sci-fi duology that’s coming out next year. If you’re about to click off this review because sci-fi isn’t really your thing then hold your horses because this novel reads far more like a fantasy or dystopian, so that’s what I’m going to be treating it as.
This book is basically the exact same as every typical YA fantasy ever
- Octavia is smart but not too smart
considering some of the choices she makes, she has one close friend, one rival, and one guy who’s really into her despite them hardly knowing each other
- Octavia’s parents are in positions of relative power, are hiding many secrets, and act cold and distant towards her,
don’t worry though, they’re not the main villain because that would be a step too far
- One day something unusual happens, and Octavia starts noticing things that no one else has
- The new leader of the settlement is making decisions that seem questionable to Octavia,
who as a 16 year old has better morals than most other people she knows without even knowing all the details
- Octavia tries to investigate while keeping secrets from basically everyone (
okay this book had less secret keeping than the typical one, so many people were in the know) and ends up exposing the secrets kept by the governing people to the common people ( wow sorry for that spoiler, it’s not like you didn’t presume it was going to happen anyway)
But now for some positivity, what was unique about this book?
- There was no love triangle, which was nice because for a little while I was quite scared there was going to be
- The was no diversity in terms of sexuality (
woops sorry I am slipping back into the negatives)
- There was some racial diversity… I think… it was never explicitly stated….
- The “other” intelligent species, the natives of the planet they’d taken over, were different enough from humans that it wasn’t falling into the problematic (within my opinion as a white woman so don’t take this super seriously) (
but don’t worry I’ve got problems with this other intelligent species I’ll discuss later)
- when the main character is being too stupid, people let her know
- the characters actually search for answers and share their information with each other which is far too rare in YA books for my liking
- I did like the attempt at something different, this is another planet with completely different rules, I just found the world building wasn’t good enough for me to understand what was going on
It was nothing remarkable.
- It felt a bit underdeveloped
- It was very slow moving
- Our character had basically no agency and was just thrown around by the forces already in play which made it difficult to root for her
- There are some deaths thrown in there that are mentioned but never seen so they don’t feel real or have much impact on our main character at all
- The reason why our main character is special was never really explained. Her abilities are never explained, and the reason for why they’re happening at that exact point is very convenient and makes basically no sense
- The ending is so abrupt and creates so many more questions than it answers
- I feel like I’ll forget about this book easily
This is where I had the most problems and is entirely why I can’t accept this book as sci-fi. The world building made no sense from a biology perspective. As long as I treat this like a fantasy where I don’t really question the world building it’s fine, but in my mind sci-fi is meant to make sense within our understanding of science and this book really didn’t.
There were so many creatures named and never described. I’m sorry but I am not going to put that much brain power into reading this book. Maybe include some pictures? A sketch here and there? but no, we’re just left with many names and no distinguishing features.
I am never going to remember them all because I am given one or two details and then we move on and they’re never mentioned again.
(which is kind of a plus because you lose no impact of the story from not differentiating any of the named creatures in your head).
My next problem is with the intelligent alien species. They were described as basically humanoid, and were mistaken for people. The assumption that other life forms will be in the slightest way humanoid is a massive leap to make, and making random changes so they’re not too humanoid is just not how biology works. Some of the strange and random physical characteristics of them were
- They change colour to blend in with their surroundings. Is it conscious? Can it be stopped?? I don’t understand how it benefits them in the slightest considering most of the creatures have amazing senses of smell. And don’t roll your eyes and go, Emma, chameleons can do this, because chameleons change colour based on their body temperature and to send signals to others and I am pretty sure the way they do this isn’t possible in a mammal which is what I presume a humanoid to be
- They have no nose??? How do they smell things??? Especially considering everything else seems to have a great sense of smell
- They have paw like hands and feet. So no opposable thumbs? This suggests they evolved from something more like a canine or feline, which would result in something that looked very different from a human
- They have spots on their faces that move to convey emotions… How do they move? Is it a case of the pigmentation of the different parts of skin changing or is a section of cells physically travelling through the rest of the cells?? The later was implied but that’s not a thing that happens????
- They have no iris or pupil in their eyes, only blackness….??? So like an insect eye?
- They have giant ears that can be mistaken for hair, but they don’t use them to hear. They remind me of the ears on a bilby (australian animal, think a rabbit crossed with a guinea pig) which are used for temperature regulation. I guess this one is plausible but what a weird thing to add in for basically no reason.
Our main characters spend a while sorting eggs, which is odd because they somehow seem to have thousands of them. I can excuse that. The problem I have is that they comment on how “reptile eggs are more oblong whereas mammal eggs are more round.” Please tell me I’m not the only one who sees the problem there
Apart from monotremes (the platypus and echidna) mammals don’t lay eggs. And I get that this is another planet, but considering the whole nursing live young is a key characteristic of what a mammal is and is linked to both their environment and their habits, if the animals the scientists found laid eggs then maybe they should choose to classify them as something different? Or better yet, start a whole new classification system for the new planet?????
In this world, Carnivores only eat other carnivores. I have many problems with this, namely how? That’s not how food chains and trophic levels work?? Also, why?? That would be so much more effort for the creature because the other carnivore can fight back. There are a bunch of herbivores over there that can’t so why not eat them? Plus the herbivores have no population control? How come there aren’t thousands on them consuming everything??
Our characters watch an experiment on an animal, and from the build up you’d expect some sort of surgery or major thing. They sedate an animal and move it to a surgery room in order to take some of it’s fur???? That’s only going to push the animal’s stress levels way up. All the things they do to the animal are non invasive scans so why is it such a big deal??
Additionally, there are observation rooms for every single experiment room. This implies that it is common practice for scientists to sit and watch each other’s experiments. In this specific experiment where they take a tiny bit of fur from a sedated animal and look at it under a microscope the room is apparently full of scientists watching.
This population isn’t massive, there are 1000 people tops. And considering there are four other research facilities, the most people who can be in this facility (presuming the split is roughly equal) is 200. And that’s not including the non scientists or kids. So you’re telling me, from a group less than two hundred people, there are rooms full of people watching this one unimportant experiment????
Again all I am left with is why??? Don’t you have your own research to be doing?? Isn’t it more efficient to read the lab report later?? Plus what if that experiment didn’t show anything unusual? You would have wasted ages sitting there.
I don’t have much to say on the characters, none of them were that memorable.
Octavia: She was a special snowflake with basically no personality
Rondo: I didn’t like him
- he didn’t have much personality or characterisation
- he showed up out of the blue and suddenly decides our main character is really interesting
- he’s the love interest in case you couldn’t tell, which is explicitly clear from the moment he shows up
- he is so creepy especially considering our main character doesn’t show much interest in him
- he says things like “you look good in purple” and “I wish I could read your mind”
- he wakes her up just because he’s awake and he wants company
- in case you can’t tell I found the romance very underdeveloped. It was just a lot of our main character being like “I never noticed Rondo before, my skin tingled” and then him helping her discover things.
- he’s a hacker because it benefits the plot, not that hacking seems to be difficult in this place because everyone just uses the names of their family members as passwords
The characters are appalled by the thought of hitting someone with tranquilizer gun, even when he was attacking them. That was just the last straw for me. They need to get it together.
The chapters were quite short and ended abruptly. Until the last four or so chapters there were massive time gaps between most of the chapters. This made the whole book feel fragmented and like it dragged on forever… Basically the book was very underwritten. A lot of it was focused on the character’s thoughts and what was going on it her head which meant there was long passages of description and nothing really happening. I feel like there could be a lot more detail.
Every chapter ended with some dramatic sentence of dialogue, like some secret being revealed or some important decision being made, but then the next chapter would be hours later. I want to know how people react to the secret. I want to know the details. Also, there were at least three dream scenes. That is too many dream scenes, especially when none of them make any contribution towards the plot.
The writing wasn’t the best. It was quite flowery at times, with lots of metaphors that left me rolling my eyes (
please change it up a bit). The inciting incident is more like backstory, the main book should have started at a thing that happens at chapter 18. (this is 2/3 of the way through the book). But on the plus side, once we reach that scene that I think should have been the beginning of the book the writing picks up and everything moves a lot faster.
If you enjoyed any of the books below maybe consider checking out A Conspiracy of Stars.
- Maze Runner // Also has unexplained world building and lots of thinking time inside our character’s head
- Flame in the Mist // Also quite slow moving with similarly inquisitive main characters
- This Mortal Coil // Both have plots that fall into tropey ground with pseudoscience that isn’t necessarily realistic
I couldn’t get into this book, but if you don’t read a lot of YA fantasy or you like slow moving plots then give it a try.