Book Review – ‘Navigating The Stars’ by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Navigating The Stars
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Published byHarperCollins Australia on 19th November, 2018
Word/Page Count: 464 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Navigating the Stars is the first book in a new science fiction series.

Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels’ parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.

When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who.

I loved Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study books, which is a dark and gritty fantasy series, so I was intrigued to see what a different genre from her would look like. This felt COMPLETELY different with a younger more naive protagonist and the writing reflected that as it’s in a casual first person POV with Lyra addressing the audience at points (“Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.”) But I really liked that! I thought the author switched gears effortlessly in the move from fantasy to sci-fi and crafted a snarky, independent and resourceful heroine. I rooted for her from the very start and enjoyed following her journey.

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This is my second read this week which is sci-fi based but not densely so – there isn’t a lot of technical jargon that will fly over your head or sprawling galactic politics to keep track of, it’s very easy to adjust to the setting and go with the flow. It will probably not appeal to readers who are looking for something more mature, since Lyra is 17 and acts quite young which is believable given how sheltered she’s been all her life, but I’m *cough* adult-aged and still found her voice very charming and relatable. I feel like a teen at heart so this really spoke to me. 😉

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Lyra reminds me a bit of Kady from the Illuminae series with her hacker skills playing a big role in the story. The mechanics of her ‘worming’ through the Q-net are a little hazy and I would’ve liked more detail than her simply plugging into the system and finding her way around intuitively, but the author makes her skills more believable as Lyra’s effectiveness is a mixture of her being young and exercising creative thinking instead of being locked into one method of operating, plus she has training from different teachers from a childhood friend to the security officers she meets during the course of this book.

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Refreshingly, Lyra doesn’t become a superhero who excels at everything she sets her mind to – she’s good at hacking because of some innate ability and a lot of training, but it doesn’t mean she’s suddenly able to take on bad guys directly and kick their ass! At one point in a tight spot, she comes across a gun, but realistically decides there’s no way she’s going to be a crack shot in a stressful situation as she doesn’t have the skillset, so she brainstorms another way to move forward.

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The blurb talking about the havoc on Lyra’s social life mad me underestimate the effects of Lyra’s parents’ career on her – I expected it to be a typical teen angst situation where it FEELS devastating, but you’ll survive, it’s not life-changing. However the reality of interstellar travel is that years pass while the ship is in transit so that its occupants may only have experienced 90 days, but back on Earth, 50 years have passed. Lyra may literally never see her friends again, and even if she did, they would be adults with a whole life she’s missed out on, their relationship would be immeasurably changed. Her best friend would be more like her grandma, how could they even relate anymore? So while there wasn’t a ton of technobabble, I liked how the world-building still encouraged you to think deeper about the personal effects of their scientific advances.

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Personally, I found Lyra’s parents quite frustrating, her mother in particular just set me on edge. But that’s a sign of good writing to have me fuming on the protagonist’s behalf! I honestly thought Lyra should’ve thrown a few tantrums, she was TOO understanding and reasonable considering the way her parents set her up for emotional trauma by telling her that they were settling down for good, allowing her to put down roots and make friends, then deciding to haul her to the furthest reaches of the galaxy even though she was on the cusp of adulthood and could’ve stayed behind. It seemed really selfish to me that they would bring children into their lifestyle, knowing that they would never have a permanent home and the kids would have to face loss over and over. 😦

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Plus the way Lyra’s mother constantly forced her to help with “all the chores no one else wanted to do, like sweeping and running the 3D digitizers” and performing physical labor and getting things organized for her…seems like she wants a lab minion more than a daughter! Lyra makes the biggest discovery of the century which revolutionizes their understanding of the foundation of her parents’ career, and her mother argues against giving her two minutes to go and explore the find because she wants her to go fetch equipment instead, I mean, damn. Lyra had no choice in being at that site and she’s got to work without pay! I really think a bit more brooding was warranted on her part…

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Speaking of brooding, enter our requisite love interest, Niall. It’s a good thing I love Lyra so much because Niall was a major pill for the first portion of the book. He has just as much reason as Lyra not to get close to passengers since being on board a spaceship means that they’re always passing through so any bonds forged will be fleeting and bittersweet. But unlike Lyra, he channels that into being obnoxious, rude and confrontational – “You’re a temporary nuisance and, as far as I’m concerned, the sooner you’re gone the better“.

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Thankfully things pick up soon after – I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Lyra and Niall warm to each other eventually and their developing relationship was a highlight throughout the rest of the story as he becomes her greatest champion. I really enjoy how Lyra won’t tolerate any nonsense so she punctures his ego when he’s posturing and more often than not ends up getting her way. 🙂 Niall’s more endearing when he’s on the back-foot with her and ruefully giving in to one of her reckless schemes.

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The best thing about Navigating The Stars aside from Lyra is the addictive plot! Sometimes in YA, the romance will overshadow plot development, but there was so much excitement here with the mystery of the Terra Cotta Warriors, Lyra working on her hacking skills plus decrypting puzzles, the tension with the possibility of looters lurking about and a possible conspiracy…my cat woke me up at 5am, and I couldn’t resist reading ‘just a chapter or two’ before going back to sleep…by 7:30am, I was frantically trying to finish the last few pages before having to get ready for work! If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is. 😛

Pros: well-rounded likable heroine, nifty world-building, thrilling plot

Cons: overbearing mother, broody love interest, occasional cheesiness

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.

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Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

3 thoughts on “Book Review – ‘Navigating The Stars’ by Maria V. Snyder

    • this is SO different to Poison Study, but I like that she can change her style so completely! it’s like with Mindy McGinnis, she switches genres like nobody’s business, haha. thanks for commenting ❤

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  1. Pingback: ARC Review – ‘Chasing The Shadows’ by Maria V Snyder | dreamingofcats

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