Book Review : These Burning 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 : These Burning StarsThese Burning Stars (The Kindom Trilogy #1) by Bethany Jacobs
Published by Orbit on October 19th 2023
Genres: LGBTQ, Science Fiction, Space Opera
Pages: 448
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Source: Orbit Books

Jun Ironway, hacker, con artist, and only occasional thief, has gotten her hands on a piece of contraband that could set her up for life: a video that implicates the powerful Nightfoot family in a planet-wide genocide seventy-five years ago. The Nightfoots control the precious sevite that fuels interplanetary travel through three star systems. And someone is sure to pay handsomely for anything that could break their hold.
Of course, anything valuable is also dangerous. The Kindom, the ruling power of the three star systems, is inextricably tied up in the Nightfoots' monopoly-and they can't afford to let Jun expose the truth. They task two of their most brutal clerics with hunting her down: preternaturally stoic Chono, and brilliant hothead Esek, who also happens to be the heir to the Nightfoot empire.
But Chono and Esek are haunted in turn by a figure from their shared past, known only as Six. What Six truly wants is anyone's guess. And the closer they get to finding Jun, the surer Chono is that Six is manipulating them all-and that they are heading for a bloody confrontation that no one will survive unscathed.

Ever since reading The Blighted Stars and its recent follow-up, The Fractured Dark, I have been determined to break out of my predilection for the fantasy genre and to try to read more science fiction. When I read the blurb for These Burning Stars, a science fiction novel centering on three very different women out for revenge, I knew I had found my next science fiction read. And boy, am I glad I picked up These Burning Stars—it’s a fast paced, relentlessly intriguing science fiction novel, brimming with morally gray characters. And it comes with one hell of a twist.


“It began as revenge but…revenge was not enough.*”


Though These Burning Stars is author Bethany Jacobs’s debut novel, it is incredibly polished and tightly edited. If I didn’t already know this book was a debut novel, I honestly wouldn’t have believed it. Jacobs does a phenomenal job throwing readers into the middle of her unique, religiously-ruled science fiction universe without overburdening her audience with too much information at any given time. She masterfully doles out just enough information about the world and the characters as the story progresses, to whet the interest of readers. I always felt like I had a few pieces of the whole puzzle and was desperate to snatch more to put it all together.


And though the novel isn’t quite linear, with flashbacks to the past interspersed between the present chapters, I found I didn’t mind! Normally I can’t stand when a novel jumps all over the place in the timeline, but in These Burning Stars, I was so incredibly invested in every part of the story that I loved, and even looked forward to, these glimpses of the past. These flashbacks allowed me to make more informed guesses at what was truly going on in the present.


“In these star systems, power resided in the Hands of the Kindom, and it resided in the First Families. She was both.”


And while my mind was racing trying to figure out the true motivations or loyalties of the characters (and how those tied in with the organizations at play and the multiple different quests for revenge), I also got to enjoy not one, but multiple morally gray main characters. I’m a huge fan of morally gray characters and Jacobs provides so many different shades of them in These Burning Stars. Upon first meeting with the absolutely despicable Esek Nightfoot, one of the most powerful women in the world and a cleric serving the Kindom, I hated her. But as time went on, and I read from Esek’s point-of-view and from those who knew (and also hated) her, to my horror, I found that I actually liked the character, in spite of her horrific deeds and even worse personality! Trust me, it’s a testament to the author’s astounding talent that I could even fathom liking this character, who is toxic from the very first page.


Esek’s protege, Chono, is a great contrast to her master, and an all around conflicted and sympathetic character, who finds herself perpetually stuck in the middle. Though she was a little too devout and honorable to be my favorite, I never knew quite what decision she would make next, which made her not only formidable, but something of a wild card, which was very exciting. Rounding out the three main narrators is Jun Ironway, an elite hacker and con artist, who is probably the most relatable of all of the narrators, and has a lot more to her than meets the eye.


“But you know the truth now, don’t you, Chono? The Kindom knew. The Kindom always knows….So a year ago, you did what I did: You took vengeance into your own hands. You decided your loyalty to the Kingdom…has limits. Like mine.”


Each of these characters provide unique viewpoints due to their vastly different life experiences and positions. I was so incredibly compelled by all of these characters that I wasn’t even sure who I wanted to come out on top in the multiple games of cat and mouse being played. Even the side characters are quite interesting, with one woman a feared defector of the assassin branch of the Kindom (who happens to be missing an arm and is still every bit as deadly), and another a former pirate who just happens to speak the rare language of the group of people who were almost completely wiped out in genocide.


If you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat science fiction novel rife with multiple strong, morally gray female characters, revenge, queer characters and romance, plus political and religious intrigue, and brewing rebellions, look no further than These Burning Stars. I’ll definitely be reading the next book in this series as soon as humanly possible and I’ll also be on the lookout for any and all future books written by author Bethany Jacobs.


*All quotes taken from an ARC and subject to change at time of publication.


Book Review : These Burning Stars - Blogging with Dragons

Posted September 21, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Science Fiction

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4 responses to “Book Review : These Burning Stars

  1. This review is so masterfully written that I immediately wanted to add this book to my TBR, despite the fact that I would never ever pick up this kind of book normally. I’m not one for space-y science fiction, but this… this sounds fascinating! You’ve definitely piqued my interest!

  2. Brian

    An excellent review. I am six or so chapters into this book, went looking for the opinions of others who have read it, and stumbled here. Thank you for your enthusiasm and positivity.

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