by Mary Fan
Drop everything, and pick up this book. If you love space, aliens, music, and incredible twists that will leave your jaw on the floor, then Starswept is set to become your new favorite novel. Not to mention, the most elaborate and gorgeous interior design you’ve ever seen, making this book a literal work of art. If this isn’t enough to convince you, then stick around, because I have a lot to say!
In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.
A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.
When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.
But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.
Iris loves playing viola more than anything else in the world. She’s passionate about her music, and desperate to be successful, to find an alien patron so that she can search for her parents. She lives in a remarkable institute for the arts, Papillio, that has been molding her since she was a baby to be a true prodigy. But in the world she inhabits, if she doesn’t have her music, and if she never gets a patron, she is nothing. Music literally is her life.
What astounded me about this novel (among many other things) is how complex the characters and the world building really is. Everything makes complete sense. The aliens, the Adryil, communicate through telepathy: which means they prize conformity, and never developed the arts, since no words ever go unspoken, and don’t need music or performance to share. When they discover earth, they’re blown away by our art, and suddenly having artistic talent makes you valuable in their world. It’s all connected – and even more so when the author pulls the rug out from under your feet about halfway through.
The first half of the novel was a little slow, but so beautifully written I couldn’t put it down. Pretty much at the halfway mark, the novel starts to pick up the pace, and fast. A massive revelation springs up and the reader is left baffled. Once again, it all makes sense. It’s like you (as the reader) knew what was going on, but flipped the way it is, you suddenly see how twisted it really is. Of course, I won’t spoil the reveal. But it’s so worth reading to get there.
I also loved the relationship between Damiul and Iris. I usually find YA couples to be too contrived, but this is not the case here. There’s real friendship, and real love between the two. Not to mention some altogether amazing lines.
Imagine all the stars in the galaxy in one pair of eyes, all the sureness of home in one pair of arms, all the heroics of a thousand epic tales in one noble heart.
This is my love.
Yeah. Did I mention how gorgeous this book is? It’s a masterpiece.
There’s so much I want to tell you about how good this book is… the true love of music the author conveys through her novel. The diversity of the cast of characters. The complexity of even the most trivial things. I went into this book with no expectations, and came out feeling truly shaken and amazed.
If you love YA, then this book is definitely for you. And even if you don’t, it might be the book that brings you into the genre. It’s sublime.
Massive thank you to the author for sending me a signed copy. I’m going to treasure it forever.
Expected publication: August 29th 2017 by Snowy Wings Publishing