by Claudia Gray
Series: Defy the Stars #1
Published on April 4, 2017 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that's now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth's robotic "mech" armies for decades with no end in sight.
After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel's programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis--even though her plan to win the war will kill him.
Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel's devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.
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YA sci-fi is always a tricky genre for me because I either really love it….or really don’t. But I can safely say that I loved Defy the Stars! This is exactly the kind of space adventure I never knew I needed but couldn’t get enough of!
Noemi is a soldier from the planet Genesis, seventeen and ready to give her life to provide Genesis with a little more time to prepare against attack. Instead, she ends up on an abandoned ship with Abel, a mech, not human but with some human tendencies. Cue space travel and lots of world-building goodness.
The first hook of this book is the writing. You’re immediately thrown into the midst of the action with a fast pace and short chapters to keep you on your toes. I liked the alternating perspectives, and when I saw that this book has been related to Illuminae that made sense. I loved AIDAN and Abel reminded me a lot of the AI but a bit more…human? If that makes any sense. It’s hard for me to not compare these two books because both feature non-human characters that have a bit of snark and a bit of otherness to them that instantly draws me in, while the female protagonists are tough, independent, and so beautifully created within an expansive world.
So yes, I definitely recommend Defy the Stars to any and all fans of Illuminae and Gemina.
Noemi was that steadfast sort of heroine that really grounded me in the story. She’s fiercely loyal and determined to do whatever it takes to help her planet. Hers is a tale of discovering who she is beyond a soldier originally sent to her death. Abel, on the other hand, isn’t human, but has an unusual grasp on humanity that he struggles to deal with, forming a tension between his programming and his own mind that has formed over the years.
I think Gray truly excelled with their relationship, drawing out both of their flaws while allowing them to strengthen each other. Theirs were stories that transcend space and planet saving and the uncertainty of a future on a ship. And just as she crafted their characters with such detail, she did the same with the world.
I’ll be honest, I’m not one for sci-fi generally because the world-building can get pretty technical, causing the story to become dense and slow. Defy the Stars had a good balance of description without delving too deep into the jargon of the genre, appealing to me as an infrequent sci-fi reader but also anyone who tends to shift away from the genre because of the language.
Now I can’t say this book was perfect. I had questions at the end that makes me glad there will be a sequel because I feel like there is so much more here to explore. But for the first in a new series, Defy the Stars was an action-packed, fast-paced read with a stunning world and characters that you can’t help but like. Regardless of whether you normally read science fiction or not, you need to read this book!
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