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From the Bottom Up: Starbound

 

Another series has come to an end. Starbound, the futuristic YA romace trilogy from Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner began with These Broken Stars and concluded with Their Fractured Light. Each installment features a new starcrossed couple with each book, united in their fight against Roderick LaRoux, the ambitious head of LaRoux Industries. Juggling science fiction, romance and fantasy, Starbound  is an intriguing mix of genres that spans space and exchanges narrators as the mystery of Roderick LaRoux and his experimentation on entities known as the Whispers unravels. Find below my rankings of the series and find out which installment is definitely the best.

their fractured light3. Their Fractured Light: The final book in the Starbound trilogy continues the trend of starcrossed romance but falls short on the execution. Sofia and Gideon cross paths as they’re making their respective attempts at attacking LaRoux Industries, but their initial meeting is as exciting as the two get before their relationship is rushed beyond comprehension. The conflicts between them (Gideon’s been mistakenly chasing Sofia’s around Corinth, Sofia doesn’t tell Gideon the truth about things) are poorly constructed, and with their relationship already so flimsy, there’s not much reason to care whether they work things out or not. The return of Lilac, Tarver, Jubilee and Flynn is a plus, but Sofia and Gideon almost completely disappear when up against preceding protagonists. Not only do their voices fade into the ether (at one point it becomes almost impossible to remember which of them is speaking in the chapter), but their issues aren’t imbued with the gravitas of those of previous protags.  Their internal conflicts are promising but ultimately have the same issues as their romance: underdevelopment. Perhaps Kaufman and Spooner thought Sofia’s small role in This Shattered World and Gideon’s link to Lilac were enough to explain why they are who they are, but it doesn’t land. This discrepancy makes it much easier to care about the previous leads, and Sofia and Gideon begin to feel like nothing more than vehicles to prompt an on-the-page reunion. Even their roles in the final battle don’t feel particularly important. They do the big worldsaving thing, but they feel shoehorned into the story when Lilac  is possessed by a vengeful Whisper out to destroy humanity.  Their Fractured Light has the scope and range of a final book, but I wish the two people narrating it were just as compelling as the story they’re in. Also, Amie Kaufman must have a thing for zombies who aren’t zombies. There were plenty of them here and in Illuminae. 

these broken stars2. These Broken Stars: As far as firsts go, These Broken Stars wasn’t a bad first step for the trilogy.  Privileged Lilac LaRoux  crash lands on a mysterious planet with military hero Tarver Merendson, and their fight for survival is complicated by the involvement of the Whispers. Not to mention by their falling in love. It begins by pulling on a lot of well-utilized threads, hooking up the overprotected and super privileged Lilac with a middle class hero. We get our first glipmses at Roderick LaRoux through his daughter. The mystery planet they’re on makes for setting eeming with questions and very few answers. The planet also makes for one of the book’s flaws. It’s mostly isolated. We only get a glimpse of where Lilac and Tarver come from and there are no other characters for them to coexist with, which limits our ability to see what their future really looks like. These Broken Stars suffers from a few of the same issues as Their Fractured Light, with Lilac and Tarver’s relationship ratcheted up too quickly to accommodate for the twist of Lilac’s death and resurrection. They still have more pathos as a couple than Sofia and Gideon, as their relationship proceeds nicely until its sudden escalation, and this first book lays good groundwork for the mystery of the Whispers and what LaRoux Industries is doing with them.

this shattered world1. This Shattered WorldThe best of the trilogy has a WOC as one-half of this starcrossed pair, the awesomely named Jubilee Chase. She is, without doubt, most of the reason I love this book so much. A feared and revered soldier on the colony of Avon, Jubilee is kidnapped by Flynn Cormac, leader of the colony’s rebels, kicking off a push and pull that spans the whole book. This installment works well with the distrust present between Jubilee and Flynn, who have a Romeo and Juliet type love story going on, while still building upon their attraction to one another and eventually turning it into love. The obstacles between them are more tangible than those in other books. Even the threat of Lilac’s too-attached father was more ambiguous, with him being out of sight for so much of it, but Jubilee’s role on the planet as an enforcer and Flynn’s as a rebel makes for a series of complications. Add in the Fury, courtesy of angry Whispers, that turns formerly well-balanced people into emotionless killers, and Flynn and Jubilee have their work cut out for them. As a couple and also on their own, Jubilee and Flynn stand out, each possessing autonomy missing in the other books. Lilac and Tarver are a nice couple, but we see them more as a couple than as individuals. Meanwhile Jubilee and Flynn, even once romance enters the picture, are constantly being drawn back into their own worlds and forced to act alone. It makes their partnership more affecting when we’ve seen just how much their goals can clash and how they can bring them together.

I can’t count Starbound among my top favorite series, but it’s definitely up there. The worldbuilding alone is enough to warrant some attention. It has the same issues other more mainstream YA love stories go in being completely made up of straight couples. Though it has no problem throwing gay and lesbian couples in the backdrop, it

 

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