TITLE: Defy the Stars (#1) / Defy the Worlds (#2)
AUTHOR: Claudia Gray
RELEASED: April 2017/ April 2018 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
GENRE: YA Science Fiction
FORMAT: Paperback / eBook
KEY INFO: artificial intelligence, interstellar war, space journeys, complex ethical issues, romance, switching POV in third person
REPRESENTATION: female MC who is descended from Chilean relatives
CONTENT NOTICES: kidnapping, AI experiments on children, bombing of innocent civilians
When I first requested Defy the Worlds on Netgalley last year, I had no idea that it was the second installment of an ongoing series. I had not long since finished reading Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray which I had rated 5 stars and I was interested in reading more of Claudia’s YA science fiction. Although I didn’t realize at the time that I was getting myself into yet another series, I’m glad that I became acquainted with the Constellations series because there is so much to enjoy in it – Claudia has created an intriguing plot with some colourful characters, interesting world building and which tackles a range of complex ethical issues like wealth inequality, sentience, autonomy and independence, transhumanism, and war. In fact, one of the things I most admire and love about Constellations is Claudia Gray’s ability to wrangle complex issues which are often at the heart of hard science fiction but present them in a YA novel in a way that is interesting, engaging and accessible.
Here’s a breakdown of how I felt about the two currently released books in the series!
Defy the Stars (2017)
Noemi Vidal is a soldier from Genesis, a beautiful and isolated planet who is engaged in a decades long war against Earth and its machine army, and Noemi will do anything to protect her home. Abel is an advanced, one-of-a-kind AI who was abandoned in space for longer than he can remember and just wants to return to his beloved creator. For all intents and purposes, Noemi and Abel are enemies who should have torn each other apart the moment they first laid eyes on one another yet (after first attempting to kill each other) they find themselves forced to work together and embark on a journey that will lead them both to question everything they thought they ever knew.
When I first picked up my copy of Defy the Stars from the library it ended up living on my desk for 2 months, almost never being read, because I completely judged it by its cover (a FOOL’S ERROR I know, I know!) Everything about my copy screamed YA Romance from the cover with its typical looking boy and girl to the Hot Key Books key on the back which described it as ‘romance, rebellion and the stars’, and its comparison to Divergent. I began to regret requesting Defy the Worlds because this looked like a book I would not enjoy in the slightest, but boy was I wrong.
Defy the Stars is so much more than ‘romance, rebellion and the stars’ and that description really undersells the book because it has a lot going on for it. It spends more time exploring complex ethical issues like consciousness, sentience, whether beings of artificial intelligence can or do have souls, environmentalism, religion, and wealth inequalities than it does focusing on romance. In fact, the romance itself was such a slow burner that I barely noticed it as it built up throughout the entire book in a way which didn’t detract the story and only really came into fruition in the last 80-100 pages.
One of the things that I really loved about Defy the Stars is that we go on a real journey with Noemi and Abel, both physically and emotionally. Along the way we stop off at some of the other planets which make up ‘the loop’ and all serve a different purpose, such as those reserved for science and the military. Through the physical journey through space we get to experience so much of the world, exploring the different people who live there and their motivations, and learning how the universe works. We also meet so many great characters, some who are genuinely terrifying, and some who are fighting for what they believe is right but may be misguided.
There is honestly so much packed into just this first book alone that it isn’t possible to go into all of the ways that this book was great so you’ll just have to take me on my words so far and check the book out for yourself!
Defy the Worlds (2018)
With the interstellar war heating up between Genesis and Earth, Noemi and Abel find themselves trapped in the middle of it all with things about to get a lot more complicated for them. I won’t give anymore of a summary of Defy the Worlds as I don’t want to give away anything about the overall direction of the series!
In terms of my reading experience, me and Defy the Worlds developed a bit of a complicated relationship with one another. I immediately launched into my ARC once I finished Defy the Stars because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened. DtS ends up a hell of a cliffhanger and I needed to have some answers! However, once I got 28% of the way in my interest in the book started to waver and I put the book down for almost 4 months before picking it back up again. As you can see from my 4 star rating I definitely enjoyed DtW once I got back into the flow of reading it but there was something that didn’t compel me to read it in the same way that I felt with Defy the Stars.
There is still a lot of action going on, lots of the complicated ethical stuff is not only carried over but developed in interesting ways, and we learn more about parts of the world not previously available to us as readers. I think perhaps the main issue that I encountered is that despite lots of action and changes between Abel/Noemi’s POV, I found the story to be a lot slower paced than DtS. In DtS we went on a literal journey through space and on different planets, in DtW we are mainly confined to one ship where a lot of action and absolutely weird as hell stuff goes down. I found that this significantly slowed the pace and didn’t motivate me to want to continue the story in the same way. There were also a few weird plot moments where particular characters disappeared from the scene when they weren’t relevant only to reappear later on when they needed to contribute something important to the plot/dialogue which broke immersion in the story.
Overall, I did enjoy Defy the Worlds once I was motivated to pick it back up and finished the book in no time. The third installment of Constellations, Defy the Fates, will be published in April 2019. I’m potentially interested in picking up the final book to see how everything will wrap up, especially as Defy the Worlds did end on another cliffhanger, but its not a major priority for me.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for providing me with an advanced reader copy of Defy the Worlds via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my review
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