No shelter but the stars coverRating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Kyran Loyal is heir to the throne of a nomadic people who lost their home planet many years ago to the ceaseless expansion of the Sifani empire. She has no desire to rule, but she does care deeply about her people. They have finally found a way to return to their planet, Ellod, with hopes of colonizing it once again, and have been bringing some early settlers. They had hoped they were far enough out of the Sifani reach to avoid detection, so Kyran can only look on in horror as they are found by Sifani ships and the small fleet she is with is destroyed. Kyran’s shock and rage send her chasing after the one Sifani ship to survive the encounter, but when her small fighter fails, she ends up crash landing on one of Ellod’s moons.

Kyran barely survives the crash and she is starving, dehydrated, and badly injured, with absolutely no resources on this desolate moon and no one knowing she is alive. When Kyran spots a fire burning, she manages to make it to the site of the Sifani ship’s crash. At first, Kyran wants nothing but to kill the Sifani woman. The Sifani empire has killed so many and destroyed so much in their never ending expansion. And now they have killed even more of Kyran’s people, including her beloved cousin. All Kyran wants is to exact some revenge, but that may not be realistic given their circumstances. The women do not trust each other; they are enemies who watched the other’s forces kill until they were the only ones left alive. But they are trapped on a desolate moon with vicious predators and virtually no resources. Kyran knows there is no help coming and that their only hope for survival is to work together.

Davia Sifane is a fighter just like Kyran. She has worked hard all her life and has dedicated herself to both her studies and her religious order. She sees Kyran’s people as nothing but terrorists and pirates, dangerous rebels who need to be stopped. But like Kyran, Davia knows their only hope is to put aside their differences. The women slowly begin to find a way to survive together and, as the weeks and months pass, to even find a tentative friendship. And then there is more, as Kyran and Davia are able to move past their initial hatred and come to care for, respect, and love one another. But as they share their stories and their pasts, the women realize that the political landscape is nothing like either of them realized. With both women committed to their people, even if they can find a way off the harsh moon and back into the world, finding a way to stay together may be impossible.

No Shelter But the Stars by Virginia Black is a fabulous science fiction story and I just couldn’t put it down. I loved Black’s Consecrated Ground, an urban fantasy about by a lesbian war witch fighting vampires. So while I don’t usually gravitate toward sci fi, I couldn’t pass this one by and I am so glad I tried it. I found this story just fabulous and completely engrossing.

The story is told in three parts, and the first part was just intense and wonderful. We are thrust into the action immediately as we see Kyran’s horror at the Ellod ship’s destruction, and her cousin along with it. Then the fury as she chases after Davia’s ship, then the terror when she finds herself stranded without hope. Kyran is near death, yet she continues on, barely able to make it to Davia’s ship before she collapses. Then these two enemies must find a way to live and work together, knowing that their only chance to survive is together. We are exclusively in Kyran’s POV in this section, which works so well to really emphasize the chasm between the two women. It is not just the language barrier, which is a formidable challenge, but also the huge gulf between their philosophies. Both women hold the other’s people accountable for atrocities, and hold one another responsible for the deaths in their recent battle. They don’t like or trust one another, but they have no options. The forced proximity adds such an intensity to the whole thing, given that they are literally alone with no one but each other, potentially for the rest of their lives. Yet somehow, they slowly find a way to trust each other, to become friends, and then more. This section is so fascinating, not only watching their relationship evolve, but also seeing how they manage to survive. Both Davia and Kyran are strong, resourceful, independent, and intelligent, and they somehow make a life for themselves on their barren moon.

Part one ends with a huge revelation (which the blurb will spoil, so be forewarned) that then leads into part two. This section starts off told from Davia’s POV and we learn more about her past and what made her the woman she is today. We then see the battle that led to the women crashing and many of the events from their time together through Davia’s perspective. I found this part really interesting, both learning more about Davia and getting this alternate viewpoint. Given that the women can’t communicate well verbally for much of their time together, there is a lot that we experience only through Kyran’s eyes. So learning what Davia thought about Kyran and how she perceived events adds a nice element. We don’t cover all the same ground, so it never felt too repetitive, but it does give some great insight. It also serves to highlight one of the big themes I felt from the story, which is perspective. Both Davia and Kyran enter their relationship solidly confident that their side is right and seeing the events from their very specific viewpoint. It is only when we get Davia’s POV that it becomes clear how different these two see the conflict between their people.

I don’t want to give too much away by going too much further into events, as so much of the fun is the sense of suspense as we wait to see what will happen to these women. But as they fall for one another and learn more about the world as the other understands it, they come to realize that the larger political situation is untenable. Unfortunately, they are coming from two opposing sides and, even as they have come to see eye to eye, they both have obligations that can make it impossible for things to work between them long term. This portion really serves to highlight the sense of responsibility and dedication that both Kyran and Davia have. I also love how this book highlights these incredibly strong women. They aren’t always perfect, but they find a way to survive an unsurvivable situation. They are smart and strong and mentally as tough as can be. They fight for what they believe in and are willing to sacrifice their own happiness for the greater good. They are such interesting, well developed characters and I loved watching their journey.

This one was a big hit for me. I found it exciting and fascinating and completely gripping. Even if you are not a sci fi fan, there is so much to love here and the writing is so well done. I hope that you will all give this one a try and that you enjoy it as much as I did.

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