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Tarnished are the Stars Review

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

A mechanic in hiding, a spy, and an ace/aro prince team up to end an authoritarian regime ignoring the plight of civilians dying from a plague. A charming story by Rosiee Thor with great representation, but lacking in depth in its world and relationships.


Young adult, science fiction, fantasy, queer


A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher's chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog -- donning the moniker Technician -- to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner's tyrannical laws. Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner's son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father's respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father's elusive affection is worth chasing at all. Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner's secrets at any cost -- even if it means betraying her own heart. When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic -- before the Commissioner ends them first.

The Good

This book had excellent representation, including an ace/aro protagonist. It offers much needed diversity in the YA genre.

Technology being portrayed as a good thing is surprisingly rare in sci-f, and the concept of a futuristic government banning tech was interesting. The anti-vax movement was brought to mind when reading about the fear of clockwork hearts despite them being lifesaving. The theme of technology‘s benefits and harm to the world was interesting to explore. The initial set-up of the world was interesting and had me engaged, and the first third of the novel had me intrigued.

The Bad

This book didn‘t go in-depth enough. It sets up an interesting world but doesn’t deliver on it. It centers around the politics of a world that isn’t fleshed out, leaving people’s motivations a mystery. The dynamic of the Orbitals, the Tower, and the Settlement wasn’t established enough, and I wanted to know more about the Commissioner and the Queen’s motivations. Without explanation, the antagonists‘ plans don’t make sense, and the stakes of the novel don’t seem urgent.

The same problem is seen with the characters. They’re likeable enough, but they aren’t explored very deeply, and for a book centered around three peoples‘ relationship they don’t spend a lot of time together. Eliza and Anna don’t even meet until half-way through the book, and then it‘s insta-love. Eliza constantly goes back and forth about betraying Nathan and Anna or not, and it gets tedious.


I love the set-up that the book has, and the tense, climactic moments were gripping, but unfortunately it never quite lived up to its full potential. This author definitely has promise, but without greater depth this novel is forgettable.

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