ARC Review: Ignite the Stars by Maura Mila
Ignite the Stars
Author: Maura Mila
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Release date: September 5th 2018
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Everyone in the universe knows his name. Everyone in the universe fears him. But no one realizes that notorious outlaw Ia Cocha is a seventeen-year-old girl. A criminal mastermind and unrivaled pilot, Ia has spent her life terrorizing the Olympus Commonwealth, the imperialist nation that destroyed her home. When the Commonwealth captures her and her true identity is exposed, they see Ia’s age and talent as an opportunity: by forcing her to serve them, they will prove that no one is beyond their control. Soon, Ia is trapped at the Commonwealth’s military academy, desperately plotting her escape. But new acquaintances—including Brinn, a seemingly average student with a closely-held secret, and their charming Flight Master, Knives—cause Ia to question her own alliances. Can she find a way to escape the Commonwealth’s clutches before these bonds deepen? In this exhilarating edge-of-your-seat sci-fi adventure—perfect for fans of The Lunar Chronicles—debut author Maura Milan introduces our world to a thrilling new heroine.
I am like, at least 99% sure that they updated the synopsis, because when I first came across this book, I swore it said:
"Think Throne of Glass set in space".
Although it definitely succeeded in catching my attention, I also became extremely wary. Throne of Glass? Those are some very big shoes to fill. Never the less, I still try to give this book a chance, because how am I going to pass that up?
I'm going to start off first by saying that I think they made the right decision to get rid of the line comparing it to Throne of Glass, because personally, this book does not live up to that title. Not because this book was bad or not fun to read at any means, just that I cannot find any real similarities between the two on the top of my head. The only one that I can think of immediately is that this book has multiple POVs. That's it.
Setting a work to be one thing when it's not and getting expectations in the wrong place is a perfect formula for failure. It will disappoint the audience even if the work itself is not bad, and I've seen so many books and movies destroyed because of this false marketing. So I'm glad they got rid of it.
But don't leave it! Do not give up on this book now that I said I don't think it's like Throne of Glass at all.
I was really, really scared this is going to be a bad, or worse, just another mediocre book. I just finished a really good book, and so I was expecting this one to be bad because usually, right after you've hit a jackpot, the next one is not as good (or really bad).
I was (I'm not exaggerating) shocked that this book is actually...good.
Oh my god, this book is actually good.
Aside from how well constructed this science world building was as well as those FANTASTICALLY written character developments (I'll elaborate on those later), I first really need to praise the portrayal of Ia.
Ia actually seems like who she was supposed to be. Her portrayal actually made it believable that she would be the most wanted criminal (and the best one) in the entire galaxy. I am so surprised about that.
Now it may seem like "why are you so surprised about that, isn't that something that was just expected?". Here's the thing, the idea of Ia is actually a really common trope. How many young adult books out there are featuring a main character that is "the best in (something) in the (somewhere)"? It's even more common for them to be something like "the best criminal" or the "best assassin", because since these two professions are a bit more aggressive, it'll make them easier grounds for an author to portray a real savage and bad - a** heroine. Also, a lot of people like these tropes, so these books are definitely targeted toward that audience.
But more often than not, none of those characters really live up to their reputation up to a believable level. In other words, the author fails to actually execute the portrayal enough for them to truly be believable. The mannerism may not fit, the attitude and narration tone may also not have lived up. You'll also be surprised that the authors so many times just plain out fail in letting these "masterminds" reach the level of ability that actually makes sense and proves why they're the best. These are all technical character portrayal problems.
There are two things the authors did that aid her in successfully excluding herself from that category of authors. First off, she used the perspective of Ia to its absolute complete filled-to-the-brink potential in letting us understand how her mind works (and in result shows lets us see for ourselves why she was the best). It was actually the first thing I noticed about her narration, and that was how she actually thinks like a criminal. The fact that I felt like her narration and mindset was different than a normal person made me realized how used I was to criminals that are not like criminals like all. It was because this was finally different, finally like a criminal that I noticed. She definitely had the out-of-ordinary precision and the habit to observe and memorize everything in her surroundings that a criminal (should) always have, and her pristine calculations she makes under pressure proves itself why she is the best.
Another thing that stood out in her narration is her (definitely rightfully earned) arrogance/confidence (depending on your perspective). She was actually confident, and she knows she's good. This truly made me realize how much the other books are lacking this specific tone with their criminals. Those characters are literally legends, and there's a reason why they are so widely known (and most wanted). They should be confident, if not just plain out cocky. It doesn't mean the protagonist is a trash person. Is just that they know they are the absolute best, which they freaking are.
This also reminded me to mention how the author did a great job in not making all the characters have the exact same tone in their narrations for the different characters. Great job on that too, I can actually tell the difference in the tone and attitude when reading them. That indubiously reflects on superb writing. The multiple switching POVs were also well-constructed and organized, so it did not feel like it was a whole jumbled up mess. Excellent Job.
The author also nailed her goal in having a complete character arc for three different characters with three different perspectives. She was also smart enough to make it work by intertwining those arcs together so that it can all work, while at the same time it would not have to last too long.
Everything about this story just screams to me excellent technique and excellent writing. You also know this book is good when this book doesn't even have that good of a hate-love relationship, and I still couldn't put the book down. Because for once, I really enjoyed this book not because of the relationships, but because of its story.
And this is coming from the person that 9/10 like a book if it has a really good hate-love relationship (because an actual interesting story has been kind of hard to come across these days). SO YOU KNOW HOW BIG THIS IS.
Let's just say that no one can be more surprised than me to how much I actually enjoyed this book (and how good this book is).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maura Milan currently resides in Los Angeles, where she can be found hanging out in cafes and drinking matcha lattes. In her free time, Maura enjoys watching Korean dramas and hanging out with her schipperke, Thor, who she believes should become a professional comedian. To this day, Gilbert Blythe is her ultimate boy crush.