Title: Defy the Stars
Author: Claudia Gray
Series: (Untitled #1)
Pub. Date: April 4th, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.
After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.
Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.
“She’s learned how to fight. Next she has to learn how to die.” (2%)
Defy the Stars is an adventure rich in world-building and diversity of cultures. In it we follow Noemi, a teenaged soldier, as she struggles to find a way to save her planet without ending multiple innocent lives. With the help of a highly advanced mech named Abel, Noemi embarks on a journey across space to get the parts and information she needs. Trouble quickly arises however, and one can’t be properly protected by a mech who doesn’t really want to be protecting you.
The premise drew me in like no other, not to mention that I am familiar with the author’s work and wanted to read another novel set in space after reading Illuminae. I was drawn to the world more than anything else, and was enraptured by the layout of the planets and gates in which one must travel through in order to reach the next planet. The details of each planet (colour, rings around it, method of accepting guests, who lives there and what they are known for), of their air (polluted, thin), and what Abel and Noemi find themselves doing on each was engaging and richly imaginative. With each landing Noemi and Abel made with their ship, they encountered new people and discoveries that could change everything if only they could piece together all of it and find out how to make it work. Fun to read and utterly captivating, Defy the Stars is worth the read!
What made this story work the most for me however, is Abel. Abel is like AIDAN from Illuminae, only in a body and not as crazy (maybe even think Cinder, but all robot under flesh instead of half-robot-half-human). He is intelligent as a robot should be, but in this world, mechs are not allowed to have superior knowledge other than what they are made for: medical, battle, cleaner etc. The mechs themselves are fairly important as there are 25 different ones, not including Abel, that each have their own special skills that help the human population and get in Noemi’s way. In this case however, Abel is one of a kind and highly illegal because his creator gave him knowledge of everything. Dangerous but forced to comply to his Commander’s wishes, Abel struggles with himself and with Noemi. This is not only a journey to save Noemi’s planet, it’s also a journey for Abel to discover himself and the truth about his existence.
“It doesn’t matter that he could outrun her, outshoot her, that he could kill her with a single hand: He cannot defend himself against her any more than he can disobey her.” (13-14%)
Noemi, being a soldier and raised to protect her planet, is brave and selfless, intelligent and loyal. She would do anything to save her world and to help out others even if it means going against direct orders and embarking on her own adventure. She is willing to sacrifice herself no matter what. When things get tough, she stands her ground and tries to keep her head. Through loss and fleeing hopes, Noemi stands by her mission and doesn’t let anything or anyone get in her way, even if that means putting up a cold, sharp front.
“She’s all rough edges and sharp elbows, her heart hidden so well by a quick temper that almost nobody ever recognizes she has one.” (2%)
Brilliant world building definitely kept me engrossed! Not only were the planets and everything about them well described and written, the language and views went hand-in-hand and did not disappoint. I will admit however, that there wasn’t much detail on why Earth is so destroyed, and I would’ve loved to understand the story behind that.
Overall, Defy the Stars is a rich and captivating novel!