To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini is best known for his Inheritance Cycle, a fantasy four-part series beginning with Eragon. I don’t know about you, but Eragon was a teenage favorite of mine. It had the right mix of suspense, angst, and, of course, dragons. When I saw TSIASOS was released, I had to pick it up. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon:

Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds.

Now she’s awakened a nightmare.

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .

As a note, TSIASOS is hard sci-fi. Technology, space travel, aliens, the works. If you’re not into that, this may not be the book for you. It’s also an epic, coming in at nearly 900 pages including the appendices.

We have to give props for a stunning cover!

The Good

The characters in this story were very full, and I found myself really rooting for the main character, Kira. I liked that she wasn’t this perfect individual that would save the world or whatever. She was flawed. Stubborn, a little naive, and just plain difficult at times. This, to me, made her an excellent, relatable protagonist.

The world-building in this book is also truly amazing. The story takes place sometime in the distant future on a distant planet. The tech has (obviously) advanced far beyond what we have on Earth today. Paolini does well in describing this tech to me without it feeling like he’s just dumping info. The knowledge comes in an organic way, which I really appreciate. I also enjoy that this tech has limits and drawbacks. For example, humans can be placed in cryostasis, but it can have negative effects on their health. Ships can travel at the speed of light, but can overheat. These little details made the world feel very real, as opposed to fictional.

The Bad

In truth, it took me 300 pages before I really got into this book. After I got into it, I read the last 600 pages over 2 days. The first 300 pages, for context, took several weeks to get through. Many times, I felt like putting it down. It was my knowledge of the Inheritance Cycle and its payoff that kept me going. In my opinion, the plot didn’t really move much in the first third of the book after Kira finds the relic, and the stakes were quite low in the beginning (or at least that’s how I perceived them).

There were some romance elements in the book that just felt unnecessary, and I didn’t feel that they added anything to the characters or the plot. Maybe if they were fleshed out further and impacted the story beyond a chapter or two, they would work for me.

I was also slightly dissatisfied with the ending. After the climax, there was a second reveal — I’ll keep it secret, don’t worry! However, this second reveal felt like a tacked on ending to open up the possibility of a sequel. Personally, I don’t think every book has to be a part of a series.

The Verdict

I’ll give this one a 3/5. I don’t think I’ll be picking it up again soon, but I really enjoyed the last 2/3 of the book.

Let’s Talk About Rejection

I’m deep in the querying trenches for my first full-length novel. It took a year to write and a year to edit. Will it take a year to be picked up by an agent? Maybe. But that’s okay. Let’s talk about why.

Writing, like any art form, is highly subjective. What one person loves, another person might hate. Same for books. For example, one of my least favorite books of all time is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I’ve had to read it at least three times for different classes in college and high school, and not one of those read-throughs has inspired any kind of love from me. As much as I dislike that book, I’m certain that it’s someone’s favorite. They have Scarlet Letter merch, dress up as a character for Halloween, re-read the book every year, the whole shebang. It’s just not for me.

This subjectivity means finding the right agent to be excited about your project might take some time. This whole querying experience is about just that: finding the right agent. Getting accepted by an agent doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the right agent for me or my project. Getting rejected by an agent doesn’t mean your piece is bad. It’s all just part of being a writer.

Something I see a lot of is people getting discouraged after being rejected, specifically because they feel like they’re not an author if they aren’t published. Here’s the definition of an author:

So, have you written something? Congratulations, you’re an author!

My rejections remind me of a favorite Sylvia Plath quote:

See the source image

I firmly believe that everything happens when it’s supposed to. I also believe the act of trying is very important. Failure is inevitable. We all fail at some things. Does that mean we should quit? Put down the pen and decide writing isn’t for us? Absolutely not. It’s hard, and it can be very discouraging to see yet another rejection email. But, to quote Walt Whitman, “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

If you’re in the same hell – I mean place – that I am: keep trying, keep looking toward the sun, and never give up.