Book Review : The Blighted Stars

I received this book for free from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : The Blighted StarsThe Blighted Stars by Megan E. O'Keefe
Series: The Devoured Worlds #1
Published by Orbit on May 25th 2023
Pages: 512
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five-stars
Source: Orbit Books

When a spy and her mortal enemy crash-land on a dying planet, she must figure out how to survive long enough to uncover the deadly, galaxy-spanning conspiracy that landed them there. The Blighted Stars is the first book in an epic new space-opera trilogy from the author of the Philip K. Dick-nominated Velocity Weapon.
She's a revolutionary. Humanity is running out of options. Habitable planets are being destroyed as quickly as they're found, and Naira Sharp thinks she knows the reason why. The all-powerful Mercator family has been controlling the exploration of the universe for decades, and exploiting any materials they find along the way under the guise of helping humanity's expansion. But Naira knows the truth, and she plans to bring the whole family down from the inside.
He's the heir to the dynasty. Tarquin Mercator never wanted to run a galaxy-spanning business empire. He just wanted to study geology and read books. But Tarquin's father has tasked him with monitoring the settlement of a new planet, and he doesn't really have a choice in the matter.
Disguised as Tarquin's new bodyguard, Naira plans to destroy the settlement ship before they land. But neither of them expects to end up stranded on a dead planet. To survive and keep her secret, Naira will have to join forces with the man she's sworn to hate. And together they will uncover a plot that's bigger than both of them.

 

 

Alien meets Mexican Gothic.

 

Main characters Tarquin Mercator and Naira Sharp are trapped on a dead planet (which was supposed to be a replacement for Earth), after having to abandon their spaceship, which has much bigger problems than just a malfunctioning AI. The atmospheric horror of this silent dead planet, the crew growing mysteriously sick and emotionally unstable, and strange creatures lurking in the dark makes for a riveting, unputdownable read. And if that weren’t already enough, political intrigue abounds, there’s an incredibly satisfying enemies-to-lovers slow burn (in space!), and interesting world-building with class commentary.

 

The Blighted Stars has literally everything:  horror, action, suspense, romance, twists, a science fiction setting with dystopian backdrop (earth-like planets, known as cradles, are being destroyed by a mysterious lichen known as the Shroud and humanity is scattered on space stations and ships), terrorist organizations fighting against destruction of these cradles at the hands of the rich and powerful, as well as interesting and original technology. I was immediately immersed in this world, which views people as “prints.” Those who die a peaceful death or who are lucky and stable enough to survive multiple deaths and prints without their neural maps “cracking,” can merely be reprinted upon old age or death.

 

But reprinting is not without its cons, as those who are unable to upload their memories, so to speak, before death will lose them forever. So the person you thought you knew, can be printed as an almost stranger, whether in a new body or without the memories you shared together. I thought this was such an interesting concept in general, especially with the rise of 3D printing in our own age, but The Blighted Stars makes this even more compelling with the moral implications of choosing an easy death, even being murdered, in the hopes of reprinting. Plus, there’s others who know that they can’t afford reprinting fees and that their death will be permanent. Personally, I love a good class commentary, and The Blighted Stars provides one heck of a demonstration with the sheer entitlement of the rich and powerful to the most frequent neural map backups, the best bodies, and new prints whenever necessary. 

 

The lack of ability for many normal people to pay their reprinting fees is what leads many people to serve the MERIT families, made up of five powerful families, who rule what’s left of humanity and require absolute obedience and loyalty. In return, their reprinting fees are usually guaranteed, except in special cases. Though The Blighted Stars doesn’t go too much in depth about how these families work or were initially formed, I felt this made sense as much of the novel took place away from civilization. And I was glad not to be overwhelmed by information dumping about the nitty gritty details of world-building when so many other mysterious and intriguing events were happening. 

 

Tarquin Mercator, one of our protagonists, is the slightly rebellious heir to one of these prominent  families, and a geology expert seeking to clear his family name from the allegations that they created the planet-killing Shroud as a result of their mining. Unbeknownst to him, the accuser of his family and ex-bodyguard of his father, Naira Sharp, has been printed into the body of one of his own bodyguards. To survive and to get to the bottom of what’s truly happening on the planet, these two mortal enemies must learn to trust and to depend upon one another.

 

I absolutely loved all of the characters of this book and cared about all of them, down to the smallest of side characters. Author Megan O’Keefe is phenomenal at making her characters feel like real people with believable dialogue, banter, past mistakes, and other interactions. I was even brought to tears on multiple occasions due to how much I cared for all of the characters. I really loved the world O’Keefe created and the questions it posits, like when is humanity really humanity? Is a person really a stranger if they just don’t remember the time they spent with you? And is the cost of world peace or the survival of humanity just too high? 

 

I really don’t have a single complaint about The Blighted Stars, other than that I needed the second one, like yesterday. I’m going to snap up future entries of this trilogy as soon as possible, and in the meantime, read all of the author’s other books. 

 

 

five-stars
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Book Review : The Bighted Stars - Blogging with Dragons

Posted May 1, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Science Fiction

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