Tarnished Are The Stars is a story that revolves around characters who are bearing weights of expectations, who are discussing the good and bad of technology, who are exploring, discovering, or creating their identities, rebelling against the wrong, and building a strong friendship; and are doing all of this on a planet that is not Earth (since it was destroyed by the technology doom) but is filled with something that is toxic to the ones born on there, aka the Tarnished.
The Settlement and the Tower adorn themselves with pieces of culture and history like they’re accessories. They pick and choose the ones they like and cast away the rest without a care for why or how they came to be.
➝ Sum it up in points!
✔Set on a new planet
✔An all queer main cast
✔Sapphic romance with a kiss or kill attitude
✔Asexual & aromantic representation
✔Young adult trio with friendship goals
✔Medical mystery with political intrigue
✔Personal goals meet superior’s expectations
✔Saving lives is the only motive
✔Science-fiction lined with some fantasy
Whatever her nature, she was definitely dangerous. The danger came not from her fists, but her words.
I had been eyeing this book since the end of last year because it sounded right up my alley, so when I had a chance to be a part of the blog tour, I jumped on the chance. Tarnished Are The Stars certainly impressed me in a lot of aspects and made for a good read, but there are some trigger warnings you might want to look through before jumping into the book.
➝ Trigger Warnings
⇾ Physical descriptions of surgery
⇾ Discussions on medical procedures
⇾ Blood test anxiety
⇾ Blood spill and contact
⇾ Child death and discussion about it
⇾ Pregnant woman and minimal description of childbirth
⇾ Grief following the death of closed ones
⇾ Holding on to grief of a lover’s death
⇾ Conversations surrounding passed away mother
⇾ Being held by ropes; taken away by force
⇾ Offensive dialogue to a disabled child (soon confronted and corrected by another character)
⇾ Being betrothed under pressure while under-age
⇾ Excessive parental expectations
⇾ Physical and mental abuse by father
⇾ Thoughts about killing someone
⇾ Ableism, especially in the context of physical health
“Don’t be nervous.”
“Right, because I can just turn that on and off.”
The plot is worth mentioning first because it’s different—the futuristic setting of a new planet lined with fantasy elements—but still uses some tropes like the young adult trio rebelling against the law and working together to find the truth in a refreshing manner. While the three main characters are tied together to work for the same result, each of them is motivated for their own personal reasons which give some depth to the story. The growing number of Tarnished people—those who are born with fatal disorders—need the help of technology to survive but the technology was exactly what doomed the Earth so it’s no longer legal to use, especially not for medical purposes. However, one surgeon and his granddaughter are set on helping those they can even if it means risking their lives. There’s a medical mystery involved with political aspirations and clever manipulations for power.
Even if she couldn’t mend everything and everyone, each bolt and cog she tightened against the skin of her clients brought her closer to redemption, closer to forgiving herself [redacted].
The world-building is vivid. The new planet called Earth Adjacent is home for The Settlement while the nobles are living high in the orbits called The Tower, waiting for the day when their data and tests speak to mark the planet safe for everyone, safe as a new Earth. However, some are Tarnished, especially babies born on this new planet. The setting created is dystopian but filled with hope so it isn’t too dark but the themes of ableism and classism are explored through the characters and that brings some complexity to the table.
There are no mistakes, only choices and what you do with them.
The writing flows smoothly and works well to transition the scenes especially since the storytelling is from multiple POVs. The voice of each character is distinct enough and sits perfectly with their personalities to bring them to life. The story is written in a third-person limited narration and creates instances that are easily imaginable.
“We do not have to share the same words or share the same definitions to be similar, to understand one another.”
The representation in Tarnished Are The Stars must be greatly appreciated. However, I don’t belong to the community of those being represented so my opinion should be considered secondary to an ownvoices reviewer. It brings sexual diversity to the pages with such ease, it’s pleasantly surprising. The sapphic characters are slowly getting romantically involved with each other and that’s a journey worth witnessing, particularly because the dialogues are gold with the right amount of sass and innocence. The trope of two lovers wanting to kiss each other in a moment and wanting to kill each other in the next is perfectly explored.
…but when she had imagined it—the future, a marriage, a romance—it had never been a man at her side.
Moving on to the asexual and aromantic rep: the male character explores his sexual identity through the story itself and his thoughts are shown to be valid which is exactly what they are. The idea of no identity can be defined by a fixed set of words is learned by him and that helps him live his orientation with pride. I won’t say much about it since I’m not the person to do so, but I would say that as a reader, I grew more toward these characters because of the great manner in which they were being represented.
But Nathaniel was older, and age had not brought with it the sweeping desire to fall in love or kiss or sit shoulder to shoulder with someone he’d just met.
Lastly, the characters who are amazing with their distinct personas and ultimate goals:
✹ Anna: queer, mechanic + surgeon, illegally helps save lives, STEM female character, emotionally driven, rebellious, stands up for the truth.
✹ Eliza: sapphic, a spy for the highest authority, wants to climb the political ladder, loves fashion, immense stabbing energy, will kill you first and ask you later.
✹Nathaniel: aro/ace gentleman, weighed down by father’s expectations, quiet but strong, will stand by you if you’re right.
✹Thatcher: Anna’s grandfather, surgeon, creator of TICCER (artificial heart), loves his town, will save lives even if it’s risky.
✹Fermont: Commissioner of the Settlement, wants to take all the power in his hands, banned technology, has secrets you will be shocked to know.
✹Queen: veils herself, brilliant at sparring, has political motivations, Eliza looks up to her, has dialogues that can fail motivational speakers.
“Power is not the same as strength.”
Overall, this YA sci-fi fantasy will surprise you with the revelations and emotionally affect you with the themes explored while you fall in love with the characters and support them through their mission.
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour but that, in no way, affects my rating and/or review. Thank you, FFBC tours, Scholastic Press, and Rosiee Thor.
Author: Rosiee Thor
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: October 15, 2019
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: An illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.
Rosiee Thor began her career as a storyteller by demanding that her mother listen as Rosiee told bedtime stories instead of the other way around. She lives in Oregon with a dog, two cats, and four complete sets of Harry Potter, which she loves so much, she once moved her mattress into the closet and slept there until she came out as queer.
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