Series: Starflight, Book 1
Author: Melissa Landers (site)
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Adventure
Told: Third Person (Solara & Doran), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (sensuality, violence, some innuendo, a few words of language, minor underage drinking and accidental drug use)
Format Read: ARC (friend)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase On: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She's so desperate to reach the realm that she's willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.
When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he's been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world--and each other--the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe...
* * *In a Sentence: A thoroughly entertaining sci-fi with a wild and unpredictable adventure plot and a cast of some of the most vivid characters I've ever read!
Sci-fi is my favorite genre, so when I first heard about this Firefly-esque YA back in March 2014 I could not have been more excited to read it. My eagerness didn't fade for almost two years (quite a feat for capricious me), and when I finally got my hands on it last month I was blown away by one of the best reads I've had the pleasure of laying eyes on!
Story: A delightfully pure adventure story with minimal foreshadowing and epic twists - especially at the end - that I did not see coming. I usually prefer twists foreshadowed, but here I relished the uncertainty and impulsiveness of the deficiency as the plot detoured this way and that due to unforeseen roadblocks and revelations. Out of their element but driven to reach their destinations, Solara and Doran find themselves trading - and fighting - with pirates, robbing a medical center, accidentally intoxicated (and tattooed), and on the run from not one, not two, but three different groups simultaneously. It was a thrilling roller-coaster of frying pan to fire and back again and I enjoyed every second of it.
Firefly Comparison: While a Firefly comparison is definitely valid, unlike others I didn't feel it was overly similar to the show. They do share a basic plot structure - two fugitives finding refuge on a questionable ship of mysterious misfits - but aside from both also having colorful characters and adventurous stories, I think Starflight stands separate.
Characters: This book had some of the most vivid characters I've ever read, flawed and realistic in their personalities and mannerisms. All had interesting little tics and quirks - from Kane's smile to Renny's kleptomania to the sugar bear that lived in the Captain's pocket - that really brought them to life and enhanced the story. But with her strength for survival and dogged motivation, Solara stole the show and proved one of the most engaging characters I've had the pleasure of reading. From Page 1 her conviction to obtain a better life for herself fueled the adventure, and at every turn it drove the story even as she and it evolved due to shifting situations and intriguing revelations. Another pleasure was Doran, who even from the beginning wasn't just your average handsome spoiled rich boy. His fears and flaws and his struggle to overcome them were refreshing and compelling, and I really enjoyed watching his growth as he discovered his courage and his aspirations for the complicated future ahead of him.
Writing/Setting: Great movement, smooth dialogue, description easy to picture. The Third Person perspective lost me a bit at times, especially as the chapters randomly switched back and forth between Solara and Doran, but for the most part it engaged me well enough. The setting was mostly the usual ships in space and terraformed planets, but they proved appealing backdrops with both familiar and foreign elements, and there were a few intriguing aspects to some of the tech.
Conclusion: Already a finalist for my Best Read of 2016, this amazing sci-fi completely blew me away with its vivid characters and unpredictable adventure story. If you enjoy space adventures, Starflight is not to be missed! Cannot wait to get my hands on next February's companion sequel, Starfall, which will be told from the perspective of pugnacious fellow crewmates, Cassia and Kane!
For Fans Of: Firefly