Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Inherit the Stars is both an excellent and a frustrating read. Layered, nuanced storytelling and a really nicely understated love story are offset by sparse, spartan writing and complete lack of world building. The author doesn’t pander to the audience but you have to read *really close* to understand what’s going on – and more often then not, between the lines. It’s a dialogue heavy book where the dialogue is a minefield of unspoken emotion – and if you miss one sentence (sometimes one word), you’ll be lost at what is going on, who is doing what, even who is actually talking (there are very few (if any) ‘she said’ or “he said” at all). The story doesn’t even flow chronologically and randomly jumps into the past and then back into the present.

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Story: Asa is the third daughter of the head of a multi-planet space system: one with a large problem. They’ve created a new energy source but at the same time unleashed a horrifying virus that has destroyed nearly all their food supplies. The Eldest daughter, Wren, is in a coma after saving Asa during a riot. Middle Sis Em is thus required to make a marriage of expediency to bring relief to the planet in exchange for the schematics of the energy source. When Asa worries her father will let Wren die in order to clear the path of succession for the marriage, she takes it upon herself to take her sister’s place and throw out her father’s carefully constructed plans to save their system of planets. All to save Wren.

First and foremost, understand that the lack of worldbuilding makes this a very confusing book. Why is Asa so obsessed with sister Wren? What is her relationship with middle sister Em? How is the planetary systems set up, with whom do they interact, what technology do they use, how do they live? Add in questions about how the tech stuff works and why (they come very close to being deus ex machina drivel) and it made for a muddled mess. It’s hard to love a book that forces a reader to constantly stop and say, “HUH?” because of random scene shifts, different dialogues all in the same paragraph, and a LOT of unspoken nuances that are very hard to read. This sort of nebulousness works in, e.g., the Japanese language but fails miserably in English. About half way through, I gave up and stopped rereading to try to figure out passages and just plowed on blindly.

That said, I did enjoy Inherit The Stars, when I didn’t want to throw it against the wall in frustration. It wasn’t for the characters: Asa was your typical “rush out and do impulsive acts constantly that should get everyone killed but doesn’t” and pretty wishy washy bland. Every other character was so ill defined as to be ciphers. That lack of definition really hurt the story – it made so many of Asa’s actions indecipherable and inexplicable. Ebony skinned love interest Eagle fails to ignite; we have a tortured/tormented soul but of course he falls for the girl doing all the idiot things that get them in trouble. Naturally, his heavy scarred face doesn’t phase her and she falls madly in love with him immediately as well. I didn’t buy it. I wish the author had been content to let them have an interest without the “I love you” vocalizations that punctuate the end of the story. Add in ‘big misunderstandings’ and yeah, cliche territory in the YA genre.

There is a short 12 page or so short story (Inherit the Stars: Reprieve) that is written very differently than the book. I believe it is supposed to give us more about comatose older sis Wren – but I didn’t find anything interesting in there. Suprisingly enough, I am curious enough to continue the series if there is a sequel. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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