The Blighted Stars by Megan E. O’Keefe

“Everyone remembered firsts. Your first love, first kiss, the birth of your first child, or the sight of your first snowfall. A life was built on the backs of firsts. Shining moments, pins in the timeline, holding who you were together. Acaelus could remember the first time he’d died, a boltgun through the head. It’d missed enough of his brain that he’d been sufficiently conscious to know pain and terror before they’d downloaded his map out of that failing body. He’d be sure it’d crack him. 

You could never be sure what would crack you, in the end. Everything you did could be the last time. This glass, his last sip of gin; this view, his last communion with the dying cradle of humanity. And he wouldn’t know until it was too late.

Firsts began lives, held them together, but lasts punctuated them. It was the lasts that mattered to Acaelus.” 

-The Blighted Stars by Megan E. O’Keefe

The Blighted Stars by Megan E. O’Keefe was an absolute blast! I loved it so so much, and I wish I could start the next book of the trilogy right now but luckily I have a few other Megan O’Keefe series to keep me busy until then! 

This book is set in an era where Earth has mostly been destroyed. It’s become uninhabitable for humans to live on, so they’ve reached outward toward space to try to survive elsewhere. Many of these planets, though, are dying. A shroud is devouring planets whole, destroying them before humans can even settle onto their surface. 

Naira is a revolutionary, part of an organization called the Conservators. She’s fairly certain that the Mercator family is responsible for worlds being devoured. As a former Exemplar, serving Acaelus himself for 8 years, Naira had a lot of evidence on her hand. She reveals her evidence, branding herself a whistleblower. But at her trial, Tarquin Mercator, Acaelus’ son testifies against her, ensuring that the mining processes his family has in place are safe. As a result, Naira is put on ice. 

In this universe, death isn’t the end. Individuals have the opportunity to be “reprinted”, if they can afford the phoenix fees, of course. But there are only so many times you can be reprinted before the map of your mind cracks. I found this entire process so absolutely fascinating! The amount of thought that was put into explaining this was incredible, and I was so enthralled by how reprinting worked and why some people cracked. It was also sort of horrifying to think of a world in which you’d experience death but then be printed into a new body. I’m still wrapping my head around how awesome this entire concept was.

Tarquin is on board a ship headed to a planet to oversee the mining there. He’s not a fighter, he’s a scholar, someone who studies geology. Yet when they arrive, they are attacked. Forced to land, Tarquin is guarded by his father’s Exemplar, Lockhart. Yet Tarquin doesn’t know that Lockhart’s body now contains Naira, the woman he helped single-handedly put on ice. And Naira can’t accept the fact that the only way she can get off this planet is by helping Tarquin. 

As the two try to unpack the truth of what is going on, they also begin to come to realize that they may not know each other at all. 

This book tackled so many things, part of me wants to unpack it all here and just really rave about everything, but I also don’t want to spoil anything. There were a lot of moral dilemmas that Naira and Tarquin faced, and while I didn’t quite like Acaelus, I understood certain ideas he had even if I strongly disliked his methods and manner of executing them. All of these characters contain so much depth, they show how challenging it is to make the ‘right’ choice when so many lives are on the line. The question of what people are willing to do and sacrifice to fight for what you believe in just had me in a constant state of goosebumps. Oof….it’s just a really fantastic story. I have so many questions, and I’m so excited to see how the story unfolds in the next book.

This book hooked me from the beginning. I could hardly put it down. I loved watching Tarquin and Naira begin to unravel the truth behind the expansion of humanity and the cost of it. Massive thanks to Orbit for sending this my way. The Blighted Stars releases May 23, 2023. 

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