Review: Tin Star by Cecil Castelucci

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On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist’s leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula’s desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.

17255996Title: Tin Star
Author: Cecil Castelucci
Genre: Sci-Fi Young Adult
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 240 Hardcover
Copy Origin: ARC won from GoodReads

Tin Star was a strange experience. On one hand, there were aspects I really enjoyed about the novel. On the other, there was a lot of missed potential and frankly bad narrative and characterization choices.

Tula Bane was one of the better aspects of the novel. She’s a great main character, though upon reflection I don’t know how much she really grew over the novel. Still, she’s resourceful enough to make a life for herself on the Yertina Feray, and determined. I didn’t mind reading about her or her story.

I also enjoyed reading about the aliens, especially Heckleck and Tournour. They along with Tula were the strongest characters in the novel, which is sad considering that the human characters should also have been as strong, but honestly weren’t.

The prose was serviceable enough, but there was a huge problem with lack of emotion. Events happen and while Tula may reflect on it for a moment, I never felt like she was actually feeling it. She tells me she is, but the prose doesn’t do anything to convince me of that. Considering some of the events that happen in this novel, that’s a really bad thing.

There’s also the issue of the only other major girl character in the novel and her characterization. SPOILERS! Els is portrayed as a diabolical, cunning, out for herself girl who may possibly be bisexual — or at the very least, willing to use sex and her body to get what she wants. She’s willing to betray everyone in order to ensure she ends up on top in life.

So of course she gets killed in the ending.

I found this to be hugely offensive that the only character who shows any possible queer leanings in a sci-fi novel is subsequently shown to be a nasty, backstabbing, conniving girl who ends up dead. It was definitely the lowest point of the novel for me. End spoilers.

The romance between Tula and one of the other human characters was, honestly, boring. I wasn’t convinced Tula really cared all that much about the guy, because — again! — the prose simply didn’t offer me any emotional points. Frankly she had more chemistry with the other character that falls in love with her, and I would have been far more interested in reading a novel about those two together than I was the two humans.

Tin Star is a standalone, but frankly it could benefit from being made into at least a duology. The entire book feels like a set up for the eventual pay off of what the characters go through in this novel and where they end up. It’s an open ending, and while it didn’t ruin the book for me, it did irritate me because there’s a lot left to explore of this world and the characters in it.

As I said, Tin Star was a mixed read. I wouldn’t say it wasted my time, but there was so much wasted potential that I was mostly left unsatisfied and sad for the book when I finished it.

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