From the publisher: Stranded on a dead planet with her mortal enemy, a spy must survive and uncover a conspiracy in the first book of an epic space opera trilogy.
The Blighted Stars is an enemies to lovers story, although it takes a bit of patience to get there. It’s the future. Earth and many other habitable planets have been “shrouded” by a lichen that consumes everything in its path, turning green worlds into grey ones. Humans have developed technology that allows them to die and be reprinted (like on a 3D printer – yeah, I found this concept hard to wrap my head around).
Powerful families rule humanity. Family members have guards, called Exemplars, who are printed with extra pathways that give them strength and skills. Humanity needs a rare substance called relkatite to enable the current way of life. A rebel group believes that the search for relkatite is tied into the ruination of the habitable planets.
Tarquin Mercator, the son of one powerful leader, goes on a mission to claim a planet for humanity, but upon arrival he and the other crew members find the planet is already shrouded. Guarding Tarquin is an Exemplar who appears to be a woman named Aera Lockhart but who is in fact Naira Sharp, his father’s former Exemplar. A member of the rebellion, she was caught, tried, and “put on ice” so she can’t be reprinted – but who has been printed in the body of another for reasons unknown even to her. Although she served Tarquin’s father for many years, she now has reason to hate the whole family.
It’s actually hard to summarize the plot of this book. There is a lot going on, and it goes on for too long before the real action begins about halfway through the book. I found the first couple hundred pages very slow moving. The 3D printing thing is weird. Depending on when you were backed up, you may or may not remember what happened lately if you die. So if, for example, you fall in love with your enemy and are killed before you are backed up, you won’t remember that. Also, if you are killed violently, your neural map “cracks” and you lose your mind and cannot be reprinted. Stuff about the reprinting doesn’t make sense to me (like how a violent death can cause you to crack, and how you can be reprinted in someone else’s body).
I found the plot confusing but also intriguing. There’s a lot of vocabulary that helps with the world building but that needs figuring out. Naira Sharp is a very confident woman. Tarquin Mercator is a bit of a naïf, kept in the dark by his family, an academic who blindly has faith in things he shouldn’t have faith in, but he’s attractive and a nice guy. Their relationship is definitely the highlight of the story, and I’ll probably continue the series just to see what happens there.
I read an advance reader copy of The Blighted Stars. It will be published in late May and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in print and as an ebook.