Title: Amid Stars and Darkness
Author: Chani Lynn Feener
Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Notable Notables: A fresher take on the love-triangle trope
Recommended Readers: Do you like aliens? Alien bodyguards?? Evil alien princes??? Pretend relationships????
Okay, I did not expect to love Amid Stars and Darkness as much as I did. Not because it sounded like a bad book or anything (it absolutely did not), but you know when you read what something’s going to be about and you get your hopes up for it, and then it fails to deliver? I was worried that’s what this book was going to do, especially since I hadn’t heard any major buzz about it.
Never have I been happier to be wrong because this book was a delight from start to finish. Also, fanfic writers, get your notebooks ready because the plot here is prime AU material for all your multi-ship needs!
Earth knows about aliens, but Delaney’s never had much interest in learning more about them; she has her own life to live. All that changes when she runs into alien princess Lissa Olena, who unknowingly to Delaney changes Delaney to look exactly like her. Turns out, after spending five years on Earth learning its customs, Olena is running from her responsibilities to return to her planet, take over the throne, and marry Zane Trystan, the terrifying heir apparent of another alien race. Now it’s Delaney’s problem.
After being mistakenly kidnapped by Olena’s alien bodyguard Ruckus, Delaney must pretend to be Olena until the princess can be found. If Delaney fails, if Trystan learns the truth, the tenuous alliance between the two alien races will shatter and war will follow, with Earth and its people caught in the crossfire.
I was entertained from the very beginning. Delaney is a refreshingly sensible, down-to-earth protagonist whose reactions to this crazy situation she’s been thrown into feel absolutely real and relatable. Internally, she’s freaking out, but externally, she’s handling every situation being thrown at her to the best of her ability and with very little information about the princess she’s pretending to be. Despite now looking like Olena, she is truthfully nothing like the spoiled princess everyone remembers before she left for Earth, and that time gap is Delaney’s only advantage as she navigates alien politics and takes part in their customs.
That and Ruckus who she can be herself around and who vows to protect her and get her back home safely when Olena is found. Their complex relationship was fun and sweet to watch unfold, and even though the novel takes place in a very short time, their developing feelings for each other made sense and felt natural. This was possible, again, because of Delaney’s realistic perspective. She knows that attraction doesn’t equal love, but there’s no denying the attraction she and Ruckus have for each other and that maybe love could form someday. Throw in Delaney’s insecurity that she looks like Olena and not like herself and what if Ruckus doesn’t like what she looks like, and you have the perfect recipe for avoiding insta-love and allowing two characters to get to know each other for who they are, not what they look like.
I’ll be honest with you, though. I was really here for Trystan and his stressful yet charged relationship with Delaney/Olena. The entire time, he has no idea that Delaney is disguised as Olena, but he’s suspicious. He knows that something is off because surely a vain, spoiled princess doesn’t change much in five years, especially not because she visited a little mud ball planet like Earth. But now Olena is interesting and doesn’t back down from him and verbally spars with him, and he doesn’t know how to feel about that.
And it shows. Oh, man, does it show. Trystan is intense and perturbing, and it’s amazing how much he pays attention to Delaney/Olena when he’s not even looking at her. It’s these things that make him a problematic fav for me (among other things), though Delaney definitely disagrees. This love triangle is deeply one-sided and yet… Not completely, heh heh heh. Let’s just say I’m highly looking forward to the sequel. Burning for it, in fact. (Is it July yet?)
But hey, Delaney, if you don’t want Trystan, that’s cool. I respect that and you; you should totally do and go for what you want. Just say out of my way.
If you’re looking for a fun, sci-fi adventure with a smart, practical protagonist, definitely check this one out. If you have a thing for the bodyguard trope, political engagement trope, or one person disguised as another trope, then what are you waiting for?? This is your brand!