Review: Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

Title: Tarnished Are the Stars
Author: Rosiee Thor
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 384

Content Warnings: physical descriptions of surgery and medical procedures, pregnancy, childbirth, child death, grief, physical violence, child abuse, physical abuse, ableism, classism

This post does contain affiliate links. I will receive a small amount from any purchases made through Book Depository at no extra cost to you.

The Lunar Chronicles meets Rook in this queer #OwnVoices science-fantasy novel, perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Sharon Cameron.

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.

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Tarnished Are the Stars is an absolute gem of a book. It’s in a genre I typically wouldn’t pick up, science fiction, but when Taylor from Stay on the Page tells me to read something I’m going to do it. And if a book has fantastic queer rep like this one does you can bet I’ll find a way to get my hands on it no matter what the genre is.

The themes in this novel are difficult to read but are things we absolutely need to be discussing. Thor touched on topics such as healthcare and how those in higher classes always have the best access to it without any repercussions. There were also so many themes revolving around families and how that word can mean different things depending on what your life is like and who the people are in it.

Thor did a really great job with the plot. It was exciting, the stakes felt high the entire time, and things made sense. Something that did bother me was the pacing. The beginning was good when we were being introduced to the characters and the three different points of view but then it began to stall out a bit. Each character started out having their own things to accomplish and it seemed to take too long before they all came together and their interests aligned. Once this happened though it started moving quickly and the rest of the book was exciting and the timing of everything felt natural.

All of the characters were incredible and unique. Thor gave us enough backstory on everybody so we were able to understand their motives without going into so much detail that it bogged down the story. It was also clear to see each person learning throughout the story and the events that happened shaped them into different people. Their goals from the beginning of the book weren’t necessarily what they wanted at the end – but only because they developed as individuals and started to understand more about the world and what was going on.

We also got some incredible queer rep! One of the characters very explicitly struggles with what label they best identify with and seeing them work through it and figure out who they were was fantastic. I also loved how romantic relationships were present in the book but it wasn’t so in your face that it overshadowed the main story line. Everything felt natural instead of forced and it was such a breath of fresh air. To see queer people simply being queer was what I needed in that moment.

This was a difficult book for me to read because of what Elliott has gone through with his heart conditions but I’m so thankful I stuck with it. Tarnished Are the Stars was a great reminder of why content warnings are so important and I’m thankful I had a couple of friends reach out to me to make sure I was aware and help me through it. I highly recommend reading this important story – just make sure you have a few hours to dedicate to it because once you start it you won’t want to put it down.

A physical ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review.

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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