Review of The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.
Hot on her trail is the Pax–a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse.
Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers.
And that’s just the beginning . . .

Firstly I would like to thank Simon and Schuster and Darkroom tours for providing me with a copy of this book to review in advance of the release of Book 2, A Chain Across the Dawn. I’m a huge fan of science fiction and space opera’s rank pretty highly for me. The Stars now Unclaimed reads like one giant space battle and the author is highly accomplished at writing battles both in space and on the ground. The story and premise was amazing, I got total Firefly vibes from it at times, because for the most part it read like an episode of that series which I love! This is mainly down to the planet on which Jane finds Esa, it’s very homestead centric but this time mainly unawares of technology of the world outside. We also have the presence of the Preacher, a Barious, who’s technological heritage has left them slowly becoming extinct as a result of the mysterious pulse, yet a handy person to have onside.  The space travel is great and I’m glad that the story moved around, the battles and endgame are epic in their lunacy and brilliance. The Pax, never quite cut it as villains for me though, I just don’t think enough time was allotted to making them feel like they were a big bad, I suppose they were meant to be a bit like the Borg, but just missed the mark.

The cover to me conveyed that it was likely to be a comedy of sorts (it gave off a bit of a Hitchhikers feel), and whilst there is some darker humour, it not to the degree that I thought it would be. There is some banter and many of the interactions are laced with sarcasm or with the type of jibes that you can only get away with when looking at long standing friendships! These were fun as it let us learn more about the secrets of some characters pasts. The real standout character was Shaz, the onboard AI of Jane’s ship – she reminded me a little of Iko from the Lunar Chronicles, she was utterly endearing and actually stole the show. Jane is our narrator but I found her a little one dimensional, this, i feel is by design for the most part with her battle hardened and solitary way, but it did make her harder to gel with.

I have to say though that I struggled with the layout of this paperback. The font is small, in a “do I need reading glasses?” kind of way, maybe i’m getting old but squinting isn’t my favourite book look. Also the book is divided into a number of parts (totally fine) but each part starts again at Chapter 1, which I know is technically acceptable but I didn’t enjoy not really knowing where I was. Each chapter lasts no more than 2-3 pages, which also makes for a strange reading experience. These are a real shame because they totally detracted from the book as a whole for me. Remember when I said It’s like one giant space battle? The downside of that is that its like fight after fight after fight with little room for character development unless it happened over comm during a fight.

The hardest part of this review is that I actually did enjoy what the story was trying to do and it did managed it in places I just needed fewer explosions and more interactions so I felt a connection with the characters.

3*

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