Hi guys! This week’s Brooding YA Hero Challenge is “All About Music,” and the best book to write about is one that I loved so much and is dear to my heart: Starswept by Mary Fan! This was the first ever ARC I was sent from an author/publisher for review, and I’m so happy to be able to review it and feature it for the Brooding YA Hero Challenge of the Week!
About the Book
Some melodies reach across the stars.
In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.
A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.
When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.
But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.
Starswept will be released on August 29th from Snowy Wings Publishing!
Disclaimer: I received a signed ARC in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review at all.
Overall Thoughts: This is the first book in a while that will receive a 5 stars from me! I am truly “swept” away by Fan’s debut book. I literally could not put it down because it was so stunning! It definitely exceeded my expectations, and this is a series that I want to continue so much! There is literally nothing wrong with this book; I can’t think of anything against it. Plus, I felt such a very close personal connection because it revolved a lot around music, and music makes up a very influential part of my life. Incorporating music and the music school inside the book is ingenious! I just want to give the book a very big hug because the main characters share the same love of music and the arts as I do. I just didn’t want it to end!
Music: Iris is a violist at Papilio, , a performing arts school in the US where students have to find a patron to accept them before they “age out”. Iris struggles to be one of the best, even though she is 1000 out of 1500 students, a place that doesn’t really give her much hope. I loved Iris’s connection to her viola and her music. I could feel how she played “Butterfly’s Lament” as she yearned for Damiul. It’s like as if she is in front of me right now playing the viola. (By the way, viola’s a tough instrument. I still can’t read Alto Clef!) If you know me, music is such a huge part of my life. I don’t know where I’d be without my violin, my piano, my singing, and my love for listening to music. That’s why Starswept struck so close to my heart because I could connect with Iris in so many ways. Her frustration when she couldn’t get a passage right. Her emotion and musicality as she plays. The school itself might seem like a place where you’d want to live in (I wanted to at the beginning of the book), but it definitely is more than meets the eye.
World-Building: Starswept takes place first in Papilio while the second act (yes, I love how it’s in acts- it fits the arts theme) takes place on the planet of Adrye (I think I’m spelling it right), where aliens get the most talented artists on Earth and have them play for them for the duration of their contract. I loved reading about not only the worlds of 22th century Earth and Adrye, but also the backstory to how the society at the time came to be. I loved how the arts, artists, and art schools tie in with the backstory and the big “secret,” and you know how I love learning about how worlds came to be. It was truly fascinating to see the alien language, the futuristic technology, the alien species, and the dystopian Earth/Adrye society all roll out. Combined with Fan’s beautiful prose, the world in Starswept is so delicately crafted that it truly makes you want to be immersed in the book and never leave.
Characters: I love all the characters, okay? Well, all of the ones that are on Iris’s side. Iris is probably one of my favorite characters. Determined to succeed with playing the viola, even though she might not be the best, she always try to fight for what is right and she never gives up. She has such an amazing connection with music that she relates to me so much! Just like Iris, music is such an important part of my life, and I wouldn’t know what I’d do without it. I also love Milo and Cara (and I can’t give any of my thoughts away… but if you want to DM me about the two, I’d be happy to chat), and Iris’s love for Damiul is great. I mean, I can’t find a way to hate these protagonists and deuteragonists because they’re such a great cast and crew. It’s like what happened to me with the characters of A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes: If they were mini people, you want to scoop them up in your hands and hug them and don’t let anything bad happen to them.
Just Perfect and Concluding Thoughts: Starswept is truly one of the few books that I have connected with so much. I can’t wait for book two to come out because I so want to continue the story! I’m also going to find a way to rack up feathers to get a hardcover of the book because look at that beautiful cover! It is truly beautiful on the inside and the outside, which is why it deserves a 5-star after my 3/4-star recession. I will definitely recommend this book to sci-fi fans because it deserves to have a place on your shelves! This is probably one of my favorite sci-fi books yet, and the series is super promising. I’m super excited for book 2.
Favorite Quote (Yes, I finally picked just one): “My music is as much a piece of me as my beating heart, and taking it away would shatter my soul.”
All quotes are quoted from an ARC copy, so they could have changed during publication.
About the Author
Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil.
Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.
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