I first picked up Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars by mistake. There were two books I’d seen a lot of buzz about online, and somewhere along the line I got their summaries mixed up and thought These Broken Stars was the one about faeries. Though I still want to read that faerie story, I’m glad for the mix-up because I would never have picked up These Broken Stars otherwise, and I’m so glad I did.
The Starbound trilogy is unusual in that it doesn’t have a single clear protagonist for the entire series. Each novel alternates between the male and female narrators, and each one focusses on a different romantic couple; These Broken Stars is narrated by Lilac and Tarver, while This Shattered World is narrated by Lee and Flynn and Their Fractured Light by Sofia and Gideon. Switching protagonists is a bold move, but it allows this trilogy a greater breadth than it would otherwise have. Between the six protagonists, it spans multiple planets and socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, giving us multiple perspectives of how the politics and business of the world affects disparate people.
Switching between pairs of POV characters means that these books are more discrete than they might otherwise be, with each book featuring a full-blown romance arc and character arcs for the protagonists. Similarly, each book has a different tone and, while they are all space operas with a heavy focus on romance, each book has its own third sub-genre. These Broken Stars is a survival story, This Shattered World is a story of war and rebellion, and Their Fractured Light is about a hacker and con artist infiltrating an organisation in their search for truth. The result is that each book can stand as an individual story, but at the same time there’s an overarching narrative over the course of the trilogy, centred on LaRoux Industries and the overall corruption of the interplanetary society the characters inhabit, and while this corruption affects each pair of protagonists differently it also means their stories weave together; Lilac, Tarver and Sofia all appear in This Shattered World, while all six protagonists play a key role in the latter half of Their Fractured Light.
As I said, each book has a heavy focus on the romance, but the focus on the space opera is equally important. The romance forms a core part of the character development for each of the protagonists, but it occurs within a corrupt and dangerous world, and meeting each other forces the main characters to examine their beliefs about the world they live in, and by so doing uncover truths about that world. The romance storylines are, therefore, inextricably interwoven with the wider narrative that transcends each book. These books aren’t ‘just’ romance, but nor are they ‘just’ space opera; they’re both, and the story wouldn’t exist without both aspects.
So whether you’re looking for romance or you’re looking for teens battling against a corrupt institution, Starbound has you covered.
Nicola is looking forward to discussing this series with Allison, Alyssa and Maria later this week.