Author: Mary Fan
Expected Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Rating: ★★★★/ 4 Stars
Genre: Sci-fi, romance, YA
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.
I had quite a hefty time with Starswept since it was in a genre I always am not very much into (SCIFI) and because I felt quite disconnected from Iris, the narrator of this book.
It starts off with some action, as this alien boy busts into the institute where Iris was born and bred to be an Artist, a viola player specifically. It’s this boy that begins to give Iris’ life some sort of color, in my opinion. She surely is more confident and her emotions shine through her playing more because of him.
Still. I couldn’t help but be astounded at how bland this world felt.
First of all, diversity of race is abundant here, skin color is described whether for brown, black or white characters, which is cool, but I didn’t really feel like they had any of their culture. I realize that that plays into the plot of the book, but I don’t know, I had a hard time liking anyone at that institute.
Second of all, the gender binary is… disappointing. It’s set in the future yet no one at Iris’ school is nonbinary, or gender queer or even trans? Maybe this is because Iris isn’t a social butterfly, but she sure sounds like she is very knowledgeable of everyone in her school.
Third of all, I had a hard time liking Iris because maybe the plot of the book isolated her from people. She was a kind girl, I admit, she impressed me when she lashed out even more. She had her own hopes and dreams and I kind of wanted more for her. I don’t really hate where the plot went with the alien boy Dámiul becoming Iris’ friend.
Maybe it’s because the point of view is set in Iris’ eyes and that kind of felt limiting to me. Plus, at times the description of Dámiul’s eyes bored the heck out of me.
It’s in the second half of the book that it really picked up for me. The book has quite a bit of action that involves busting someone out of a reeducation center, and there’s quite some explicit mention of brainwashing and mind control. You see, the alien type people Dámiul belongs to can control minds, whether their own kinds’ or humans.
I believe this book is important to pick up, and I think fans of the genre could find a true gem. It wasn’t for me, but I didn’t hate it. Plus, it’s by a marginalized author, and we have to support them.