Like so many noughties kids, I grew up with Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle (the Eragon books). It is now quite a few years later both for me as a reader and for him as an author, so when To Sleep in a Sea of Stars was announced, I was intrigued. It is a complete departure from epic dragon-based young adult fantasy to adult space opera, although Paolini has not lost his tendency towards massive tomes. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is not for those afraid of big books – it clocks in at around 860 pages!
Many thanks to Jamie-Lee Nardone, Stephen Haskins and UK Tor for sending me a copy for review. All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 15/09/2020
Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds
Now she’s awakened a nightmare
During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.
As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.
While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .
OPINIONS: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars opens strong, very strong, but then drags on for a long time. It feels like almost the entire first half of the book is more exposition and set-up than true story. There are some amazing moments in the book – I especially loved the punny jokes and the candid discussion of periods, but as a whole, I did feel let down. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is at least a couple hundred pages too long and could have benefited from some ruthless editing and trimming down.
Other than that, the universe Paolini creates for To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is interesting and faceted. The book is set in a future where space travel and exploration is as common to humans as air travel once was to us (oh, pre-pandemic times…). Kira, the main character, is a xenobiologist on a colonising mission, when a routine task leads to contamination with an alien specimen. This turns out to be sentient, calls itself the Soft Blade, and bonds with her as a sort of skin suit.
Despite the many lengths of the novel, it feels like the emotional repercussions of much of what happens are not addressed enough and there is constant forward momentum, even when Kira ends up with ample time to ponder and evaluate. I feel like the book could have been so much more. That is not to say it is bad – it is unique, it is interesting, it is ambitious, and it has an ending that is ambiguous and open to interpretation. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars has a lot going for it. I just think it could have been better.