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.
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.
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.
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.