Book Review: The Blighted Stars (The Devoured Worlds, #1) by Megan E. O’Keefe

I spent about the first 40% of this book not sure that this was the right book for me and almost DNF’ed, but I turned back to it later when I was in a different mood because I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. I decided my problem was my expectations. I was thinking this would be like The Expanse with a romantic subplot and it was really more of a romance set in space. The political intrigue and the romance were incredibly slow burn and made more sense by the time the book ended as well as I am sure over the course of the series.

“The Blighted Stars” is set in a future in which Earth does not exist any more and corporate families like the Mercators control body-printing through mining for precious metals needed to genetically enhance the bodies that are connected to some sort of original neural map. I didn’t really understand the science of how printing works and I wondered why anyone would sign up for such a thing unless they were absolutely desperate or enslaved, something I wanted more background on. If humans could die over and over again, why would you see them as people anymore? The book only briefly touched on this in the second half, but I wanted to understand the ethical quandaries a little better; I thought that was an interesting part that didn’t get explored in depth.

However, I understood why there were so many unanswered questions about body-printing at the beginning, because the way that body-printing works is tied to major spoilers.

Set against this backdrop, Naira Sharp, a former bodyguard of the leader of Mercator turned revolutionary, is trapped on a dying world after something went terribly wrong on a mining expedition with the Mercator’s son and an expeditionary crew. Only she was printed in the body of the Mercator’s actual bodyguard and no one knows she’s really the rebel whom Tarquin Mercator testified against at her trial that put her mind on ice.

In Tarquin, however, she finds a sheltered, good-hearted kid who has a pet robot named Pliny, a scientist who just wants to do the right thing and doesn’t understand the full truth of his family’s underlying darkness. I found their relationship to be the most compelling of the book and if you don’t like their relationship you probably wouldn’t like this book since it’s such a large part of it. The first half of the book focuses on their relationship as they’re stranded on this strange planet and discover that the fungal infection they think is the problem isn’t what it seems; the second half of the book focuses on the political intrigue.

I wish we’d gotten more back story to these characters; I wanted to hear more about Tarquin’s childhood. In one brief scene it’s mentioned that he’s trans and his father had his preferred body printed for him, and it’s also mentioned that he has illicit pathways to give him added strength and agility, but other than that it’s barely touched on. I suppose this is refreshing because if people can get new bodies whenever they want, they just inhabit their preferred form, but I wanted a bit more character development.

However, I loved these two characters, and enemies-to-lovers is so often poorly executed but I liked the rhythms of their arc. I completely fell in love with Tarquin. More nerds in space, please! I also loved the complexity of the antagonists; shows maturity in writing to show the villains as monsters and simultaneously capable of deep love for their family.

I’d buy this book and read more in this series. I am intrigued enough to want to know what happens next.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance review copy. I am leaving this review voluntarily.