Book Reviews

Book Review: Sky Without Stars

by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

publisher’s synopsis:

A thief. An officer. A guardian.

Three strangers. One shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spying on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a traitor. Groomed to command by his legendary grandfather, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when he discovers a cryptic message that only one person, a girl named Alouette, can read.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have roles to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

I am a huge Les Miserables and speculative fiction fan, so when I first learned about this series, which is marketed as Les Mis in space, I was super intrigued. And Sky Without Stars did not disappoint.

While following the plot of Les Miserables and having some extra nods to Les Mis, the new setting and unique twists and turns keep Sky Without Stars from feeling predictable or stale to a Les Mis fan. You could also read Sky Without Stars without having read Hugo’s classic. No prior understanding is needed to be able to enjoy the book.

The worldbuilding was really well done, balancing the space/sci-fi elements with the feeling of Les Mis and the French revolution.

The main characters were great and felt pretty close to their original counterparts (or at least my memories of them). Compared to Chatine and Marcellous, Alouette didn’t have a ton of POV time, but I think that was mainly due to how she got slowly involved in the plot. After the ending, I think she’ll have more POV time in the later books. The only character who didn’t quite seem to match Hugo’s version of the character was Inspector Limier, in my opinion. He fit the part of Inspector Javier, but he didn’t seem quite like Javier. But that might have just been me.

Speaking of Javier, Sky Without Stars corresponds to the later part of Les Mis, in that it focuses on Chatine, Marcellous, and Alouette (Epinine, Marius, and Cosette). Because of that, there aren’t really any of the dynamics or themes that happen in the Jean Valjean and Javier plot in the original classic. So I did miss that a little bit.

If I could change one thing about Sky Without Stars, I would have picked a different name for Chatine. If I was just told that there was a character in a Les Mis retelling named Chatine, I would have thought that it was the Fatine character, rather than the Epinine character off of the name. But Chatine’s name didn’t really bother me that much. And it’s pretty clear that she is Epinine.

Overall, I really enjoyed Sky Without Stars. If you like Les Mis, you’ll want to read this one.

Cautions: light/moderate romance; one kiss; brief, semi-graphic violence; several instances of swearing; see below paragraph

In Sky Without Stars, poor women sell nutrients in their blood instead of themselves, as in Les Mis. This is only just mentionIed, with very little detail. There is also an in-world swear word that is similar to a substitute for a ‘heavy’ swear word, used semi-regularly in one of the POVs. Sometimes the usage didn’t bother me, and other times it felt a little too much like real swearing.

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