Last year I read the first part of Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s Starbound Trilogy, These Broken Stars
, and I was not only immediately hooked, but also very excited to get my hands on the sequel. Having to wait for the paperback edition was agony, since that meant elven months of not being able to read a book that was already published. I moved between wanting the next installment to be just as good, or even better, and thinking that it might be a complete flop and that I had put too much hope on this one novel and its two authors. But as it turned out, it was very much worth the wait.
Life on Avon is hard for everyone, natives and soldiers alike. After fighting for years they’ve finally reached a ceasefire, but that doesn’t mean that things are good. The soldiers are on the planet to protect the people and keep the peace, but for the most part they’re off fighting the rebels who believes things on the planet are unfair. Captain Jubilee Chase is the toughest soldier on the planet – people call her stone-faced Chase and the rumors surrounding her makes both soldiers and rebels freeze. Flynn Cormac on the other hand, is a pacifist part of the rebel fighters, called the Fianna, who doesn’t believe that violence is the right way to settle things on the planet. He thinks diplomacy and talking will lead the way out of Avon’s problems, until the day he kidnaps Captain Chase and finds the thread that will unravel a much bigger secret then either he or Jubilee could ever imagine being hidden in the swamp-land of Avon.
Kaufman and Spooner introduces us to two strong characters in This Shattered World – Lee Chase and Flynn Cormac. They’re both around eighteen when the story kicks off, but it all really starts ten years before, when Jubilee lives on Verona and the rebellion on Avon hasn’t taken place yet. By following both characters in alternate chapters, the reader gets a very complete overview and insight in not only the military base on Avon, but also the natives and their rebellion. Jubilee and Flynn are two people never destined to meet and yet somehow their paths crosses anyway. They’re each other’s opposite – Lee is tough, analyzing and cold while Flynn is soft, understanding and warm. They live in two completely different worlds yet still manages to find something that brings them on common ground, namely, the planet they live on.
It doesn’t take long for Flynn to find something very wrong in his world, a world he knows better than few others. A secret military facility in the middle of the swamps appear and he sees no other choice then to find a soldier to question about it and the soldier who is most valuable is stone-faced Chase. After kidnaping her and explaining that he knows about the facility, Lee admits that she has no idea what he’s talking about since there shouldn’t be anything military out in that part of the swamps. They both realize that they’ve found a mystery which needs to be solved, or war will break out on the planet. But they’re trapped between their sides, risking everything they’ve ever worked on and everyone they’ve ever loved to go in search for answers they can only hope to find.
I was divided while reading because part of me thought it was a great novel and the other part was annoyed and not really invested in it. I absolutely loved the world-building Kaufman and Spooner has done – Avon is a wonderful, albite slightly creepy, world. Parts of it reminded me of the movie Avatar and the world there, Pandora. Avon is different from Earth, and it’s a planet that hasn’t yet finished its terraforming and is mostly just mud, water, more mud and some trees. But it also has a constant cloud cover, a lot of fog and something that ruins most every kind of technological signals. The military has set up their own little town with a few civilians living in it, but most live out in the swamps, in caves along the Fianna. I loved every part of Avon and it was truly a joy to investigate it throughout the novel.
The two main characters are the cornerstone in this novel, for the most part they have only each other or, at times, only themselves, and they carry the story forward. I loved that it was a story about a boy and a girl, a soldier and a rebel, a warrior and a pacifist. And I loved even more that the soldier was the girl and the pacifist was the boy. Lee is hard, she’s tough, she saves Flynn many times in combat, while Flynn is the soft, sweet guy who gets Lee out of trouble by talk rather than fights. They not only complement each other, but also defies the usual patterns of a strong boy taking care of a sweet girl. They’re both brave in their own way and even though both of them have seen their fair share of violence, they’ve reacted differently to it and I absolutely loved seeing how Kaufman and Spooner created two so very different characters who taught me, and hopefully many other readers, so much.
What I had problems with was the fact that Lee was very cold in the beginning of the story and she had no trouble talking about it. At first I figured that it was just her telling the reader that she was a bad-ass, which she is, but it soon became repetitive and I wanted to shout “Yes I KNOW you’re super tough and a coldhearted bitch with no soul but you don’t need to tell me that all the time”. Thankfully this passed after while, but I wish the authors would’ve taken some of that away and allowed me to see Lee’s awesomeness for myself sooner. She is a cool character and I think she will set an example for younger girls, showing them that they can be whatever they want, and that’s something I like. But for a moment, the need to force me to see Lee as something awesome and cool was annoying. She had another character trait that didn’t sit well with me either, but no matter how much I’ve tried to put my finger on exactly what that is I haven’t managed. She just had something that was a little difficult for me to swallow.
Besides this I found the characters to be good. Lee changes a lot during the novel and I liked who she became in the end. Flynn is a great advocate for peace who always choses the road where no one gets injured and I admired that. In the world we live in, which now have so very many YA novels about rebellion and war, we do need more characters that realizes, and says, that violence isn’t always the path to freedom. I want to believe that this will set an example for not only younger readers, but all readers.
For a long time, this novel was only pretty good, on a scale from good to amazing. Lee bothered me and parts of the novel felt rushed – at times I would’ve wanted more details to make it feel more like I was there with them – and it annoyed me that while Lee talked about her parents, Flynn only mentions his mother once. His father is a mystery and a bigger part of his life before the start of This Shattered World is as well. I would’ve liked more background information about him. There were also deaths that bothered me, both because they happened at all and because I never got to bond or connect with the characters that passed before they were ripped away. More time with them was something I’d have liked as well, because now they’re just names that didn’t make it to the end page. However, there was one sentence, nearing the end, that changed my view of the novel and I realized that sometimes it isn’t the story or the writing that defines which book is good and which is bad. It’s the message that it leaves you with and the message This Shattered World left me with was very strong and really spoke of the brilliance from Kaufman and Spooner.
I am, overall, very happy with This Shattered World. It was definitely worth waiting for and I will most certainly reread it at a later date, probably before I get my hands on the final installment (Their Fractured Light, published in December 2015). For me, Kaufman and Spooner writes differently from so many authors, not only in the way they write but in the way they see the world and the messages they weave into their stories. I’m very excited to see what they come up with in the future and in the mean time I recommend this novel, and the entire series, to everyone who wants an action packed space adventure on a colonized planet in the midst of a rebellion.