Title: Spinning Starlight
Author: R.C. Lewis
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Space Opera, Romance, Fairytale Retelling
Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it’s hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it’s just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.
Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi’s vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.
Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home—a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers’ survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?
Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.
My First Thoughts:
When I saw this book over the summer I flipped out and marked my calendar. I even had a little count down for its release back in October! I enjoy fairytale retellings, but a lot of them retell the same fairytales over and over and over. You can only retell a story so many times before all originality is used up. However, I find that setting fairytales in space and turning them into space operas is pure genius! I loved Lewis’s first book, Stitching Snow, and I knew that I would like this one too.
I’ve found that I have a love/hate relationship with the fairytale retelling genre. While I love the idea of retelling an original work and spinning it into your own creation, many of the retellings focus on the top Disney Princess movies. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many books I have seen that are based on Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Rapunzel, which, those are perfectly good stories, however, you can only spin something so many times before all the retellings start to sound alike. That’s why I have really enjoyed reading Lewis’s books. She uses the original story as an outline, but then creates a picture so unique that some people might not realize it was a retelling until told. If I hadn’t done some background research on The Wild Swans, I wouldn’t have been able to pick up that it was a retelling.
I also love that she picked a fairytale that hasn’t been super popularized by Disney. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Disney, but I love seeing other folk tales get a chance at the spotlight too. In fact, I would’ve never known about The Wild Swans if it weren’t for this book and the research I did to familiarize myself. Now, I’m even looking for a copy of the original story by Hans Christian Anderson to read and own for myself. And that’s what fairytale retellings should do, to introduce readers to new fairytales and folk tales from other cultures and time periods.
Now that that part of my rant is over…to the actual reading! I find that Lewis made the smart decision of writing this book as a space opera, instead of a hardcore sci-fi book. What’s the difference? Space Operas focus more on the setting that the story is in space rather than the technology used in the story, like Star Wars, it is a subset of sci-fi. Hardcore science fiction novels focus more on explaining the technology and the science behind the story than the setting, hence the science in science fiction. Since Lewis spent more time building the worlds and the story than the technology she described, I would classify this story as a space opera. This seems fitting for me because many fairytales have been turned into plays and operas since the creation of theater, so setting it in space is a bit of an upgrade. And because this story is a space opera, Lewis didn’t have to spend a whole lot of time describing the technology, like the conduits or Dom, which allowed for the story to run more quickly and smoothly. If some people couldn’t follow the technology mentioned in this book, imagine if she actually went into great detail and spent an entire page explaining one piece of it…
Anyways, another complaint that I heard for this book was that people found it irritating that Liddi couldn’t speak, so they couldn’t read hardly any of her dialogue…I’m sorry? I wish there were more books in which the main character, or any character, couldn’t speak! That creates such a challenge for an author to be able to tell a story with one less character, especially a main one, being able to communicate. I loved reading about how Liddi tried getting around not being able to use her voice; I believe that it really added to her character as well. Trying so hard to keep from screaming through pain, yelling in frustration, or spewing the words burning on her tongue really showed how strong she was as a person, and how much she loved her brothers. I mean, come on, how many of us would be able to keep from screaming when they get their leg broken? Anyone?
The lack of ability to communicate also allowed Tiav to get to know Liddi in a way she never could with anyone else outside her family. This also created another challenge for Lewis, to spin a love story in which only one side could speak and the other couldn’t give away everything either. Sure, this book was more focused on the love part of the story more than Stitching Snow, but I found this love was not completely unique, but more refreshing than many of the books that I have read recently. So, in my book, Lewis accepted the challenge and aced it with flying colors!
But just like in her previous book, Lewis was able to create a unique cast of characters that really livened up the reading. I absolutely loved how Liddi had so much self-doubt, but she worked through it and overcame her own mountain to help her brothers. Sure, there are a lot of stories with self-doubting heroines, but Liddi actually comes up with the plans to save her brothers all on her own. I really connected with Liddi, because I always doubt myself and my intelligence even when people tell me I’m smarter than I think. It was refreshing to read a character that doubted her own intelligence like myself, but then overcame her conflict with only supporting help from other characters. Liddi didn’t need anyone to dangle the information in front of her, or spell it out, she came up with her own solution, and Tiav was only there to help her in the execution of her plans. Okay, so she wasn’t your stereotypical heir to a multi-million dollar company, but how would we know how an heir to a technology and science based company would act?
Speaking of Tiav, he is very much like Dane from Stitching Snow, not in personality, but in role. Tiav again wasn’t your bad boy or knight in shining armor. Instead, he was guy with some duties to his people and a curiosity that allowed him to get to know Liddi. He was never described as super attractive with chiseled muscles and the body of a god. Tiav was just your average young man in appearance, who loved to help other people and driven by curiosity. It was refreshing to read about such a normal sounding guy, I almost forgot that they existed in young adult fiction, I swear, they’re like unicorns or something! Even when stories have ‘average’ male leads, they never really read as average, there’s always something about them that makes them super sexy or the heroine is in denial. Tiav is actually average, but in a good way, and his reactions to the various things happening around him came across as normal as well. He wasn’t super gallant, and ready to save the day even when Liddi screwed up, but he also didn’t have meltdowns or fits of rage either. Tiav was very cool headed and didn’t completely react until all the information was presented, or at least what he thought was al given. And he never stole the show from Liddi like many other male leads from popular YA novels. Instead, he assists Liddi in her greatest moments, lending support when needed.
As for the other characters that I mentioned before I got side tracked, they had brief appearances, but colorful productions! Each of the minor characters was unique in their own way, making it easy to remember each of them. Well, okay, the eight brothers were a bit hard to distinguish at first, but as the story went on and you learned more about Liddi’s family through her flashbacks (great idea by the way) they become more easily discernable from each other. The other minor characters were mostly aliens, it was really fun to read about how each of the major groups looked like and how they acted. As I keep seeing with Lewis, she never half-asses anything when it comes to world building, with the actual worlds and the people that inhabits them. The aliens she describes are each unique in appearance and behavior, even down to religious beliefs and customs, which I found interesting to read and discover for myself!
Not a fan of super heavy science fiction, but still love space and futuristic worlds and aliens? Looking for a romance with no love triangle and a realistic acting/looking male lead? Want a story with a strong heroine that overcomes herself doubt and saves the day on her own? Looking for interesting worlds and cultures to explore, where the world building is complete? Want a retelling of a fairytale you’ve never heard of or is rarely done? If you said yes to any of these, then Spinning Starlight may be for you!
I know that it was more than anything that I was expecting, and trust me, my bar was set high!
Once again R.C. Lewis has written another book that has made it to my favorites shelf! I was able to connect with Liddi and really get engrossed into her story. I absolutely loved the relationship between her and her brothers, and of course the love between her and Tiav. Lewis definitely did a fantastic job setting up unique challenges for herself and her writing, and being able to meet each of them in turn. There were times when I couldn’t put the story down, even when I needed sleep and trust me, sleep and I are very close. I was again blown away by the detailed writing that Lewis put into her world building and the unique aliens that filled the pages. The science wasn’t super complicated, but there was still enough of it to give a futuristic feel to it.
Also, I can never stress this enough, but I loved how Lewis added in the details from The Wild Swans. She wove enough from the original story that anyone paying attention could pick them out. However, if the person wasn’t familiar with the story, or didn’t know that it was based on a fairytale, then it didn’t affect the reader’s experience. I’m so happy that she picked such an unfamiliar fairytale, at least amongst the younger generations, and spun it into a wonderful space opera!