I am absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity to be an advance reader for The Star Host, by F.T. Lukens. The short version is that this book is amazing, and I am hard-pressed to be more coherent than ASKLJFDAH and OMGFLAIL, but I am a professional here and I can do this. However, let me preface this with the note that this is a wonderful story that you don’t want to miss, and as it releases on March 3rd, you should go check that out right away at Interlude Press, under the imprint Duet Books.
While you do that, let me see if I can flail properly, but without spoilers.
Ren grew up listening to his mother tell stories about the Star Hosts—mythical people possessed by the power of the stars. Captured by a nefarious Baron, Ren discovers he may be something out of his mother’s stories, and must remain inconspicuous while he plots his escape. He befriends the mysterious Asher, a prisoner in the neighboring cell and member of the Phoenix Corps regiment. Together, they must master Ren’s growing technopathic abilities and try to save their friends while navigating the growing attraction between them.
The Star Host opens on a very idyllic scene between two brothers, but quickly drops us into the heart of the story with pulse-pounding action. While the story begins with love, family, and dreams, that is all quickly ripped away when Ren is captured and dropped into a confusing world. It is absolutely lovely for us, as the reader, to be able to see Ren as he flounders into new talents, and the discovery of how he fits into his mother’s stories.
I fell in love with Ren from the beginning. He’s very open, very there on the page. He wants to believe, and he wants to be connected to those who he considers important. He worries about family and friends, and as he forges new friendships, he creates new loyalties there as well. I never worry about Ren’s heart; I could always see that it was one of the most important parts of him. And I found myself trying to see the other people through his eyes: the surprise friendship with Jakob, and his fading crush on Sorcha but a solid friendship with her at the same time, not to mention the unexpected friendship with Asher (and oh goodness, oh my dear, the moment Asher came on screen I was in love with him, he has attitude).
The book sucked me in quickly, becoming a page-turner that I didn’t want to put down. F.T. is skilled at dropping little hints and clues, like breadcrumbs along the trail, that as a reader I wanted to collect and lay out and figure out the puzzle before Ren did. And the mythology of the stardust is absolutely gorgeous; the worldbuilding is fantastic, with so many tiny details building a perfectly clear view of a world that is not our own.
I have loved science fiction since I was small and first could reach that shelf in the bookmobile. As I’ve grown, I’ve read a lot of it, and F.T. does two things that makes this a perfect SF book for me. One: she creates the story around the characters, and we become invested in their lives. SF is about worlds, and about technology, and in this case about spaceships and politics, but it is also about people. F.T.’s people are alive. The more I read, the more I cared about them, and about what happened to them, and to me that’s the hallmark of a good story. And two: the world is human. The worldbuilding is deep, and detailed, but it is not technology and mythology that forsakes the human side of the story. While it could be a story about the ships and abilities and what Ren can do, it is instead a story about Ren and Asher, and how those abilities and that technology affects them.
There’s more I want to say, but I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone else. I love the way it looks at the interaction between humanity and machinery. I love how the story explores family and friendship. I love how it talks about consent. I love the nicknames. I love the way Asher and Ren have to work together to figure things out.
When the book ended, I set it aside with a happy sigh. I flailed around (a lot). I read some pieces of it again. I made notes to myself. I wrote down all the things I’d love to see more of, all the spaces I wish I could see filled in. And there’s the hallmark of a well-built world, when the reader tries to fit within it, tries to see the extra things and hopes for more. This is a story I’d love to see expanded, and I will keep my fingers crossed that perhaps someday we can see more of Ren and Asher (and everyone else!).
This is a fantastic YA novel that will appeal to teens and adults alike. It will release on March 3, 2016, from Duet, an imprint of Interlude Press. I highly recommend picking it up; you won’t be disappointed. My grade? A all the way.