Bethany Jacobs is an American SFF writer who used to be a college instructor of writing, but she made the leap to education technology. These Burning Stars is her debut novel.
These Burning Stars is a political science fiction thriller. The worlds of the Treble are ruled by the religious order of the Kindom & wealthy first families. The story is about an Empire built on a shady past and is a revenge-driven plot. Jun Ironway is a hacker who has managed to get her hands on something that could destroy a powerful family. The Kindom are not going to let that happen. Two Clerics Esek Nightfoot and Chono are dispatched to hunt her down and retrieve it, but they have pasts of their own and a figure from their past is manipulating things. They must try and retrieve the item while dealing with the threat from Six. It is a game that could destroy their lives and the Treble worlds but they must see it through.
I love science fiction and when I read the blurb for this book I was hooked and wanted to read more. This novel can be confusing at the beginning as it sets up the story to come. It is clear from the beginning that the author isn’t going to hold back as Esek visits the school to see the children who could be the next hands of the Kindom. Here the teacher sets number Six (as they don’t have identities until they graduate) against the others and the battle is brutal and shows that this is the norm for this world. The back and forth from the present to the past can be confusing at times and can feel like it detracts from the story. I also felt that the way in which the story was told in the beginning made it so I wasn’t sure who I should be rooting for. I was disconnected from the characters and wasn’t sure what was going on. This is something that starts to become clear about 25% into the book so it is worth sticking it out as once things start to escalate it is a very good story of revenge, secrets, and honor. Although science fiction the story can appear fantasy-like as you are introduced to the worlds of the treble and the way in which the political system and religion govern these worlds. The characters in this world can be cruel and Bethany does a good job of showing the ruthlessness of the ruling class. This can be a good thing as often the consequences can be less immediate but that is not eh case in this book. Esek is a determined woman who doesn’t hesitate to do what she feels needs to be done in her quest for power. It’s all relative and some people will hate her character and some people will love her. She’s complicated and took me a bit to get used to her. The mentor-mentee relationship with her and Chono is interesting and great to read.
It wasn’t my favorite book of this year but once I got into the story it was a high-action adventure right up to the ending. It is a great debut from Bethany and worth a read.
You can purchase These Burning Stars from your local Bookshop supporting indie bookshops is important and something I am very in favor of. I like nothing more than to browse physical books. Or if you want you can shop online through the usual suspects. (Waterstones, Amazon)