REVIEW | Christopher Paolini | To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Quote: She returned the Soft Blade to herself, and again she was whole.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars book cover

All she wanted to do was her job, and the universe kept conspiring to prevent it. Fighting wasn’t her thing; she wanted to learn.

I was obsessed with Eragon as a child (honestly so much of the first book I ever wrote was Eragon inspired), though I still haven’t finished the entire series, so when I heard the announcement for To Sleep in a Sea of Stars I knew I had to have it. An adult space epic from Christopher Paolini? Must read, and I loved it. The chances of me rereading this before it comes out is ridiculously high.

Rating: 5 stars!

Thanks to Tor.com for the review copy of this incredible book, it hasn’t affected my honest opinion.

Trigger Warnings: non-consent to medical procedures, death, torture, emetophobia (one scene but real gross), loss of limb, light body horror.

The plot:

It was supposed to be a routine research mission on an uncolonized planet. But when xenobiologist Kira Navárez finds an alien relic beneath the surface of the world, the outcome transforms her forever and will alter the course of human history.

Her journey to discover the truth about the alien civilization will thrust her into the wonders and nightmares of first contact, epic space battles for the fate of humankind, and the farthest reaches of the galaxy.

What did I think?

I went into this book almost completely blind. I honestly didn’t know one thing about the plot. I’m not sure I’d even read the blurb but I knew it was an adult sci-fi from Christopher Paolini and that was enough for me. In hindsight I think that that might have been the best thing I could have done. At no point in this book could I predict what was going to happen next. This year I’ve started to really hit my stride with sci-fi and I think it might have finally beaten out fantasy as my favourite genre (blame Tor entirely for that, with Murderbot, Gideon the Ninth and this book). To Sleep in a Sea of Stars hit every single one of my favourite sci-fi features. First contact? Weird symbiotic alien relationships? Snarky ships? Check, check, check.

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually read a book that’s wholly focused on first contact before, but it’s one of my favourite movie concepts and whenever it’s glossed over in sci-fi I’m sulking hard about it, so to read a book that’s entirely based on first contact is incredible to me. In To Sleep in a Sea of Stars humans have been expanding and colonising and spreading as far as they can with the faster-than-light (FTL) technology that they’ve developed. But thus far they’ve been alone in the universe. I’m not going into details because I don’t want to spoil anything, but the way that the humans respond to the threat of first contact feels uh….. uncannily accurate. And speaking of the technology. There’s a helpful glossary in the back of the book. I didn’t use it, and I found this book perfectly accessible without a hint of info-dumping. I don’t know how Christopher Paolini managed to fit so much complicated exposition into the text naturally, but when I realised how easily I’d picked up the jargon I was really impressed.

The character cast in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is perfection. Kira is my queen of thorns, and I would trust her with my life and with the fate of humanity. Maybe I’ve got a soft spot for powerful women with Something To Prove, but I was cheerleading Kira hard every step of the way. The supporting cast is just as lovable and I think that they’re all well developed and individual, without drawing away from Kira, who is very much the focus of the story. And then there’s Gregorovich. Gregorovich is the ship’s mind, a concept explained in the book, and the love of my life. I’ve been thinking about him for weeks. He’s a monstrously powerful character if you think too much about what he can do. He’s also a total edgelord. I love him to pieces, and as the book told me why he behaves the way that he does, it only made me love him more.

I am the spark in the center of the void. I am the widdershin scream that cleaves the night. I am your eschatological nightmare. I am the one and the word and the fullness of the light. Would you like to play a game? Y/N – Gregorovich
No – Kira
😟 – Gregorovich

I’ve always been leery of men writing female main characters – I’ve been stung too many times. There were moments where this book was a bit male gaze-y, and Kira’s internal narrative just didn’t seem like the kind of things any woman I know would say or think, but for the overwhelming majority, she was fantastically written. She’s going on my list of strong female characters that I aspire to be like. There is a brief romantic sub-plot in this that felt totally unnecessary to me, but it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book because the plot itself was never sidelined for the sake of romance. In all honesty, I’m being nit-picky to criticise those points. This has flown onto my favourites, and I’ve already got a spot set aside on my favourite books shelf ready for when I get a physical copy of this baby. I could never have predicted the ending of this book in a million years, but I loved it and I’ve been thinking endlessly of it since finishing. Honestly, I hope that the paperback comes with some kind of short story set later, because I just need more of this universe, of the Wallfish and Kira.

Links:

Add it on Goodreads here!

Buy at Hive if you can and support your local indie booksellers! Also available at Waterstones and Amazon.

4 thoughts on “REVIEW | Christopher Paolini | To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

  1. I’m so glad to be seeing great reviews of this one because I was also a big Eragon fan really want to like Paolini’s new work. Unfortunately, I still have to wait a while to get my hands on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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