Early Review: SKY WITHOUT STARS
Series: System Divine #1
Published by Simon Pulse on March 26, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Retelling
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
SKY WITHOUT STARS Review
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is a favorite of mine – I’ve read the book, seen the movie adaptations, and I’ve watched the Broadway show. I’m also a big sci-fi fan so I when I heard that Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell is a retelling of Les Miserables set in outer space, it immediately became a must-read for me.
Sky Without Stars is a dark and intense story of oppression, rebellion, and revolution. It features three main characters – a thief, an officer, and a young woman who is guardian to the last surviving library. These three seemingly unrelated characters will find their lives unexpectedly intertwined as the poor and oppressed citizen of the planet Laterre threaten to rise up against those who would keep them down.
In an atmosphere filled with danger and destruction, who will survive?
The worldbuilding in Sky Without Stars is top notch. The story is set in outer space on the fictional planet of Laterre. The authors did a brilliant job of reimaging the tense social climate in France at the time of the French Revolution, the way the filthy rich and the authorities built themselves up on the backs of the poor, while at the same time, turning their backs on them and letting them live in slums or starve in the streets. The descriptions were so vivid that it was easy to imagine the horrid conditions the poor were stuck in while the rich lived in their opulent homes. They also added in lots of futuristic gadgets and weapons, including a modernized version of a guillotine that reminded me a lot of a Star Wars lightsaber.
Chatine was my favorite character. She’s street smart and feisty, and all about doing whatever she has to do in order to survive. Disguising herself as a boy, Chatine works as a thief, picking pockets all day. She lives with her con artist family, but there’s no love lost there so Chatine is trying to thieve her way into getting enough money to buy her way onto a better planet. I live for a good underdog, so I was cheering Chatine on every step of the way.
Marcellus was another interesting character. He’s a military officer who is in training to take over leadership of the military. He begins to question his loyalty to the government, however, after receiving a cryptic message from his father, that implores him to go and visit an old friend – an old friend who happens to be suspected of being one of the masterminds behind a rebel faction hiding amongst them. It was interesting to watch how complicated things got for Marcellus as he struggled to figure out if his loyalties should lie with the government he works for or with the people, who are clearly suffering.
Alouette is the third voice we hear in the story and like, Chatine and Marcellus, she is an easy character to sympathize with. At first I’ll admit that I found her a little dull compared to the other two characters, but once she is confronted with the fact that her whole life has been a lie, she gets a lot more interesting.
There is also a secondary character that I fell in love with, a young boy named Roche. He’s a little thief like Chatine, but he has more personality in his body than all of the other characters added together. He’s clearly modelled after Gavroche, who stole the show in the original story.
The main issue I had with Sky Without Stars was that I found myself constantly comparing it to Les Miserables. I kept trying to match up every character in the retelling with who they were inspired by in the original and it actually started to get very distracting, especially if I thought the new character fell short of the original, case in point Alouette as Cosette and Marcellus as Marius. Although I liked both Alouette and Marcellus overall, I just found them a little flat if I thought of them in relation to Cosette and Marius too much.
I also found myself missing characters like Fantine and Valjean, one who was not included in the retelling at all and one who seemed severely underused, even though I considered their roles to be pretty vital in the original.
It can be hard to measure up to a beloved classic, but I think Sky Without Stars stands on its own as a pretty exciting space opera. I actually think I would have enjoyed it even more than I did if I had been less familiar with the original Les Miserables. I guess what I’m trying to say there is I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction, even if you’re not at all familiar with the original classic.
A thief. An officer. A guardian.
Three strangers, one shared destiny . . .
When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.
Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…
Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.
Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.
Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.
All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.
Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.
I think this would work for me because I’m not super familiar with the original story, I’ve only seen the musical (!!) Glad you ended up enjoying it😁
Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted…WILD COUNTRY by Anne Bishop – Review
I actually think you would love this book, Tammy. 🙂
Blimey! This is a seriously ambitious venture – having a go at retelling one of the most sweeping and heart-breaking epic political critiques of all time… I suspect your knowledge of the original probably slightly got in the way – but if they make that claim, then they need to expect folks who do know the original very well (and a fair few folk do…) to based their opinion on how closely and successfully this retelling follows the themes and storyline of the original. A great review, Suzanne:)
I agree. I think it’s probably best suited for someone who maybe just has a more casual knowledge of the story. Or maybe I just nitpick too much, lol.
I never got into Les Mis. I’ve wanted to and just never have. This book still sounds really great though, and I’m glad you liked it.
Ash @ JennRenee Read
Ash recently posted…Review: The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise
Thanks, me too!
I have not read or seen any adaptation of Les Mis, but I can see why this would be exciting for anyone who has! It sounds like the authors really put a lot into the world-building and society to try and do the original justice. I’m glad you enjoyed it, despite the comparisons sometimes lacking!
Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Graphic Novel Review: Letters for Lucardo Vol. 1 by Noora Heikkilä
Yeah, I thought they did an amazing job with the worldbuilding and with including all of the major themes from the original. My brain just needed to dial back the nitpicky comparisons a bit and it probably would have been a 5-star reading experience for me.
Ah, one of the perils of a retelling of a loved story is the comparing. But on the plus side, it sounds like such an epic story on it’s own!
verushka recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: The Books on my Spring TBR
Yes, it definitely stands on its own as a pretty awesome story. I think my brain just wanted to be super nit picky because I’m almost obsessively familiar with the original story, lol.
I’ve actually never seen or read Les Miserables, but I like the sound of this!
It was very well done and you may even like it on its own without the Les Mis background.