Ignite the Stars: Review
As an Asian-American female, the cover of Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan absolutely took my breath away. YAS! Own that cover! Own the stars and space! This book is full of action and features a realistic science fiction world that I could actually get behind- it’s rare for me to not be cynical about sci-fi settings- and I can’t wait for more readers to get this in their hands! Note: I received a digital e-galley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Everyone in the universe knows his name. Everyone in the universe fears him. But no one realizes that notorious outlaw Ia Cocha is a seventeen-year-old girl.
A criminal mastermind and unrivaled pilot, Ia has spent her life terrorizing the Olympus Commonwealth, the imperialist nation that destroyed her home. When the Commonwealth captures her and her true identity is exposed, they see Ia’s age and talent as an opportunity: by forcing her to serve them, they will prove that no one is beyond their control.
Soon, Ia is trapped at the Commonwealth’s military academy, desperately plotting her escape. But new acquaintances—including Brinn, a seemingly average student with a closely-held secret, and their charming Flight Master, Knives—cause Ia to question her own alliances. Can she find a way to escape the Commonwealth’s clutches before these bonds deepen?
In this exhilarating edge-of-your-seat sci-fi adventure—perfect for fans of The Lunar Chronicles—debut author Maura Milan introduces our world to a thrilling new heroine.
Ignite the Stars is much more than it seems, and while it may share similarities with Throne of Glass, The Lunar Chronicles, or even Red Rising- at its core, it’s a science fiction novel that celebrates strength in diversity, brains over brawn, and the dangers of segregation. Oh yes, it’s a jam-packed science fiction novel with starfights, plenty of innovative tech, and new futuristic slang, but there are some complex underlying themes that tugged at my heartstrings. Here are a few of the highly relevant topics addressed: amnesty for refugees, feeling ashamed of one’s race and identity, the aftermath of colonialism, and the grey moral compass of a military body. During a week where domestic politics has been packing a punch, reading a book that is able to take some of the grief I’ve been feeling and put them into context within a fictional world has been enormously therapeutic. It becomes a type of grief that I can now process.
Beyond the complexity of Ignite the Stars, the main characters are wonderfully dimensional. Ia is a fierce fighter and flyer and has terrorized the Commonwealth using her brains. She is unabashed about her kill count and celebrates her heritage as a Tawnee, a minor race of people identified by their navy blue hair and superior intellect. Brinn hides her true identity and tries desperately to fit into Commonwealth society- craving acceptance so much that she enlists in their military academy with hopes of becoming a hero- the type of hero who might capture a criminal like Ia someday. Both of these young women are flawed. But as a reader, you hope for them. You rally for them. I certainly did. Milan describes their fears and desires in a way that makes you understand why these women do what they do, and I empathized with them.
Admittedly, the first 25% of the book is somewhat slow as it builds up this brand new world that the book is set in. The wait is worth it, because the rest of the book is packed with action, both the close combat and space fighting type. I also really loved the world that Milan creates because it’s believable! There are lavatories! Unhealthy chocolate desserts! Borgs that need to be charged once in awhile! There are some unique properties to this setting that I also found hilarious- when the current generation refers to classical music from Ancient Earth, they are talking about rock ‘n roll.
I rate Ignite the Stars 4/5 stars!