Title: Tarnished Are the Stars
Author: Rosiee Thor
Summary: The Lunar Chronicles meets Rook in this queer #OwnVoices science-fantasy novel, perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Sharon Cameron.
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.
Disclaimer: I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor as an e-ARC. Also, Rosiee and I are friends, so take grains of salt accordingly.
Content Notes: Emotional and verbal abuse, allusions to physical abuse, death of a child, surgery, parental death.
Nathaniel is my precious son and I am so very proud of him.
That’s it. That’s the whole review.
Just kidding, of course it’s not the whole review.
I admit that I approached Tarnished Are the Stars with some trepidation because, well, I always approach friends’ stories with trepidation, even when I know I’ll like them. What if I don’t?! It happens, sadly. But not with Tarnished!
I may have devoured it in about an evening because I was enjoying it so much. Tarnished Are the Stars features a delightful trio of disaster queers who bounce off each other incredibly well and oh boy how all their strands come together. It’s fun.
I will note that I wish it had been revised a little more simply because it took me a ridiculously long time to figure out what the epidemic mentioned in the blurb actually was and I’d have loved dearly to have a clearer idea of what Anna’s tech did for people who got it and how it stayed hidden in the Settlement. But it’s a fast-paced science fiction romp with a dash of fantastical nobility thrown in and it’s.
Listen, if this hadn’t been an ARC, I would absolutely have wound up doing a livereact on Twitter of my reactions for you all to enjoy. As it stands, I’m afraid Rosiee had to put up with my spilling feels all over DMs because hell this was fun.
And you know what? This book brings up asexuality and aromanticism and their definitions and doesn’t mix them up or mistake one for the other. Some readers may be less pleased about the Allo Saviour trope, but it works well in context and it’s part of a larger conversation rather than the focus of a whole scene. Which is to say it does everything I want in a scene that uses it and YMMV but it’s one of my favourite ways to include the labels that I’ve seen.
I especially liked the way that the narrative had already made it clear that Nathaniel is aroace before this point and he gets to reflect back (somewhat) on those feelings and it was just very good and soft.
I really enjoyed the banter between Eliza and Anna as well as Anna and Nathaniel. Watching Nathaniel discover himself and becoming comfortable enough to show people (well, Anna) who he is is just too precious. He’s got such a subtle, dry sense of humour it’s a treat every time it shows up, if not because I like his sense of humour than because it’s such a clear sign of a Nathaniel who is comfortable.
Anna is a tiny (okay, a tall) ball of rage at the Commisioner and his rules, and what that means for the people in her small outlaw village and those within the Settlement walls. Watching her struggle with her choices and, more importantly, how those choices impact the people she cares about and the way those choices make those people feel is just. Amazing. Anna is fierce and loyal, even if it takes her a while to figure out just why people are so upset about her choices.
Eliza, meanwhile, has made a terrible choice once before and is faced with making another. She’s ruthless and bad-ass and I love her. She’s sarcastic and quick-witted and enjoys verbally sparring with Anna. Like Anna and Nathaniel, she cares deeply and far, far more deeply than she gives herself credit for.
Listen, I promised you disaster queers and these three are self-sabotaging to the point where when their paths split off my screech was probably heard in outer space because there is no I in team don’t split up this is a terrible idea. These three work best when they’re cooperating and watching them figure that out is the best.
Also I may have yelled at Rosiee about all the deaths because ROSIEE.
Anyway: Tarnished Are the Stars was absolutely tons of fun to read and I’d highly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for queer SFF YA reads. (If I don’t see this on YA award ballots next year I will be severely disappointed in everyone. And I will make sad pouty faces at you all. Please don’t make me make sad pouty faces at the internet.)