I struggled my way into this book. Not because the characters or setting didn’t compel me, but because the writing clashed with my expectations. The language of the text did not reliably flow for me, and several early conversations felt stilted or unnatural. It was jarring and distracting where I wanted it to submerge me completely.
But I persevered, and I’m glad that I did. It was the characters, the setting, and their underlying tensions that kept me going. Though it’s clear from my early jarring experience that Maura Milan and I don’t communicate on the same wavelength, her story is marvelous. I happily finished Ignite The Stars, and by the end I felt none of the disjointed language I’d experienced earlier.
Now, I haven’t re-read the start. I don’t know whether there’s simply one piece of the text that is written differently, or whether I became used to Milan’s writing and stopped noticing what had been difficult for me earlier. Other books I’ve read (like Graydon Saunders’ Commonweal series) are certainly an acquired taste that take a great deal of work to access and appreciate—and while I know that about them, I’ve lost track of how hard I worked to access them the first time. It’s not clear to me whether I’ve lost track of my difficulty accessing this book as well.
Regardless, I admire what Milan has made here. Few YA sci fi books I’ve read recently do as good a job of incorporating stories of oppression, hate, and exclusion, let alone deal with the consequences of hegemonic expansion or intolerance against refugees and ethnic groups. When they do incorporate these elements, they rarely feel as honest as this—like they’ve been tacked on to add some socially conscious edge to a story, instead of existing as part and parcel of this story’s world. Milan has done the second.
Moreover, she’s done the second while making a good story. Yes, there are some very specific genre story beats that you’ll see coming. If you’re already familiar with the particular tropes, you won’t be surprised (no I won’t spoil them). But Milan has made something that feeds all my genre expectations while still incorporating everything I mentioned above, and I admire it a great deal.
Honestly, I hope that I could do half as good a job as she does.
So yes, I recommend this book. That goes double if you want YA sci fi with a school plot and light romance elements. If you have language trouble early on, stick with it—there’s good story worth reading on the far side.
Yup! This one is pretty good too!
It’s almost a different genre though. Where the first book (*very mild genre spoilers*) was largely historical fiction and adventure, with a dash of romance towards the end, this one is more of a school social drama (still historical fiction), complicated by romance and a dash of adventure (*end spoilers*).
I’d say it’s still worth reading, but if you were only here for the sailing ships I’m afraid you’ll be rather disappointed. On the other hand, there were a few ships on the side as set dressing and I’m sure there will be more ships in the next book. And, of course, it’s still tremendous fun.
However! I should note that there’s some sexual harassment featured in this one, more so than in the last. The first book had a little, which ultimately ends rather poorly for the abuser (thank goodness). This one has more, at lower intensity for the vast majority, in other situations. I don’t think it’s been too much so far, but I’m not sure that I like this as a pattern.
On the one hand, sure, it makes sense to include some of this. I’m more willing to accept it in part because it doesn’t overshadow Jacky in any way, and her reactions to it feel quite real. It makes it clear how uncomfortable and unwanted that behavior is, and how confusing and difficult it can be to react to receiving it. If nothing else, it might be a decent learning experience for young not-female readers, where they can come away from it thinking “oh, that’s fucked up, we shouldn’t do things like that.” But on the other hand, I don’t want to keep reading about sexual harassment and assault in every Jacky Faber book. If that is an underlying theme of the series… well, I’d really rather that it weren’t.
This hasn’t been a terrible sticking point for me so far. But it might become one, and it may already be one for you. Forewarned is forearmed, etc.
And again, I still like this one and I’m planning to read the next book damn soon. So it obviously hasn’t stopped me yet.
Fun fact. I graduated from college five years after I graduated from high school. This means that all those big 5, 10, etc year reunion things fall on the same calendar year for me. This is a bit awkward, as you might imagine, when it comes to planning.
When I’m also recovering from mono during the same stretch of time that all of those reunions are happening… well. My apologies for continuing to be slow with my posts, but I’m seeing folks I haven’t seen in years and having a very good time doing so. And when I’m not doing that, I’m sleeping.
Do not fret, I’m still here. I’m simply busy. I’ll be back with you soon.
Remember how I mentioned being dissatisfied with my work on Wednesday? As you might gather from the title, I wrote another 500 word piece rather than use either of those two. I am, as ever, somewhat dissatisfied, but I still like this one. It’s… fun. And somewhat painfully reminiscent of my childhood. Enjoy.
Part of my homework for this week was to write a “two page” character intro for an engaging Middle Grade character. I dislike “pages” as a measure of length when I’m writing, since I don’t use Word and see no reason to change that, but that translates to roughly 500 words. Of course, I wrote one and wasn’t satisfied, so now I have two that I’m not totally satisfied with. I feel like they do a better job of introducing conflict and drama than they do of introducing a particular character, if only because I have little tolerance for writing an opening scene that doesn’t start something.
In any case, here’s two Middle Grade scenes presented back-to-back, with no real relation between the two. Oh, yes, and one of them is actually about Jerome from my Elven Progenitors setting. Enjoy!
You know that scheduling shift I mentioned on Monday? Looks like it’ll happen sooner than I’d realized. I’m afraid my second “real post” of the week will come on Thursday from now on, or at least until that’s inconvenient and has to change too. But there’s an excellent reason for this, and that reason is my class on Children’s Book Publishing, taught by Anita Silvey. I’m very excited about it.