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Book Review: Sky Without Stars

I have been on summer break for a few weeks now, and found some time to do a little light reading between working on summer homework and SAT prep. Sky Without Stars — and its sequel Between Burning Worlds — was a book I really enjoyed reading. Sky Without Stars is written by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell, and is part of the System Divine series. The series is a retelling of Les Misérables set in a dystopian society on the planet of Laterre.

I was initially drawn to the book because it was a retelling of Les Misérables. The book, musical, and movie were all entertaining for me, so I was intrigued as to how the authors interpreted the story and chose to present their version of the well known tale. Furthermore, a setting of a dystopian society in space piqued my interest as I enjoy science fiction. The similarities between this book and The Lunar Chronicles were mentioned in several reviews, so I felt the story would be to my taste, as I had quite enjoyed reading The Lunar Chronicles.

Sky Without Stars sticks closely to the plot of Les Misérables, but manages to be refreshing. Elements of a foreign world add a different flavor to the familiar story, creating a whole new story. That being said, a reader unfamiliar with the original story may find this book, and series, a bit slow or confusing. The original story is quite complex and contains a large cast of characters: going into this story without at least having read a full synopsis for Les Misérables may make the story difficult to follow. However, unlike Les Misérables, Sky Without Stars is told from the perspective of three protagonists instead of from the perspective of many characters. Inspirations from the characters of the original novel can be clearly seen in the characters. The character of Eponine is reconfigured into Chatine, Marius into Marcellus, and Cosette into Alouette.

Elements of the French Revolution can be seen throughout the book and series. This was an unexpected bonus for me as I enjoy history. Just like France during the time of the French Revolution, society is divided into three Estates. In this story, the First Estate consists of the monarch and his family, just like the actual First Estate, the Second Estate consists of educated elite — such as government officials, law enforcement, doctors, lawyers, educators, etc. — and the Third Estate, also the largest Estate just as it was in real life, consists of everyone else. Issues with this system and corruption among the First and Second Estates creating suffering for the Third Estate is a central motif. A good touch was the fact that the First Estate in the story, much like King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, were unaware of the plights of the Third Estate. The Matriarche (wife of the Patriarche, the ruler of Laterre) in the story, not unlike Marie Antoinette, spends lavishly and is largely unaware, and dismissive, of any issues in the government and society. The Patriarche is weak and incompetent as a ruler, just as Louis XVI himself was.

While the book was satisfying, it leaves the reader with more questions, hence it being part of a series. The rest of the series, I presume, will follow a similar pattern and follow the original story closely while still having the flavor of a new world and perspective. Burning Between Worlds picks up the story from where Sky Without Stars leaves off, and Suns Will Rise, the yet to be released third book, will presumably pick up where Burning Between Worlds leaves off. Suns Will Rise is slated to be released on August 3rd, 2021. There is also a prequel, The Thief, on Chatine’s rise to becoming a thief and con artist. I have yet to read the prequel, so, unfortunately, I am unable to provide commentary on it.

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