Dec 14 2014 11:00am

First Look: Annie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s This Shattered World (December 23, 2014)

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerAmie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
This Shattered World (Starbound #2)
Disney Hyperion / December 23, 2014 / $17.99 print, $9.99 digital

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporate conglomerate that rules Avon with an iron fist. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage against the military occupying his home, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as his prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides in a senseless war.

Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy. Romeo and Juliet. Tony and Maria from West Side Story. Rose and Jack from Titanic. Writers have adored the star-crossed lovers trope since, well, since we’ve been telling tales. Evidence of this motif goes back as far as A.D. 8, when Ovid’s Metamorphoses was published, including the fable of Pyramus and Thisbe, lovers forbidden to wed because of their parents’ rivalry. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner revise this popular theme in their latest novel, the second book in their Starbound series.

Captain Jubilee “Lee” Chase has been on Avon a long time, a fact which is unusual in and of itself. Soldiers here get lost to the mysterious malady known as “the Fury” on a regular basis. Or shot by rebels. Or lost in a hundred different ways unique to this planet which seems determined not to bend to human will. Lee has survived by being tough, ruthless, fair and distant. She’s made friends but steers clear of lovers. In her position it is far too easy for there to be accusations of favoritism – or the dilemma of being the one that sent your beloved to his death. Besides, it’s better for morale that she be known as Stonefaced Chase. Then she sees him at Molly Malone’s, the local watering hole, and her world changes forever.

Eighteen is pretty young to take yourself off the market, but it’s safer to send them all the same message from day one.

But this guy. . . this guy makes me pause. Makes me forget all of that. Dark tumbly hair, thick brows, dangerously sweet eyes. Sensuous mouth, tiny smirk barely hidden at its corner. He’s got a poet’s mouth. Artistic, expressive.

She can’t help but take a second look.

He’s chiseled, with a chin so perfect, it makes me want to hit it. The shadow of stubble along his jaw only emphasizes the lines of his face. These guys invariably end up being assholes, but from this distance he’s just beautiful. Like he was put together by an artist.

When Lee calls him over, it becomes clear the attraction is mutual.

I fish out the plastic sword –it’s hot pink- from the martini glass and suck the cherries off of it, one by one. The guy’s eyes fix on my lips, sending a brief surge of satisfaction through me. Molly doesn’t get much opportunity to mix drinks here – and I don’t get much opportunity to flirt.. . . There’s a gleam behind the aw-shucks new-boy persona he’s wearing: pleasure. He’s enjoying himself.

And then a touch later in the flirtation she tells him:

“I’m a troublemaker.”

“My favorite kind of girl,” Romeo meets me eyes with a smile.

Lee is Flynn’s favorite kind of girl, much to his surprise. Even if he can’t be honest with her, has to answer to “Romeo” rather than Flynn because his name would be the only clue she’d need to peg him as a rebel, he finds himself attracted to her. But she’s Stonefaced Chase, the scourge of the rebels on Avon. He’s Flynn Cormac, leader of the rebel forces. He will have to walk away. As he explains it, there are too many differences between them. They fight not just on opposite sides but for different reasons:

I’m fighting for my family, my home, my freedom. She’s fighting for a goddamn paycheck.

They come from different cultures:

“Pog mo thon, trodaire,” I mutter, tightening my grip. Kiss my ass, soldier. Captain Chase lets off a string of what sound like insults in return, though I don’t understand the language. She doesn’t look like she’s got any Irish in her, probably has no idea what I said. But she recognized my tone as easily as I can tell she’s cursing right back at me, speaking Chinese.

They have different approaches to the problem. While Flynn approaches the other side with a desire to “talk to them, reason with them”, Lee is one for action:

She doesn’t need that thin excuse to commit violence against my people – according to the stories, she practically embraces it. They talk about how she single-handedly cleared out the resistance cell on the southern edge of TerraDyne territory. How the soldiers under her command are the fastest to respond, the first on the scene, the fiercest fighters. How she skins rebels just for fun. I wasn’t so sure about that last one until I saw how she looked at me after I pulled my gun on her. But at least one of the stories is true. My cousin Sean nearly got his head blown off by her platoon a week after she took command, and when I asked him what she was like, he said she was mind-twistingly hot. He had that part right.

But in spite of their differences, they are drawn to each other. When Lee becomes a prisoner of Flynn’s rebels, he finds himself devoted to her care.

“So, Romeo.” I lean my head back, waiting for him to make some move farther into the cell. “Why do you keep coming back here to see me? Can’t get enough, huh?”

“Never,” he replies easily enough, stooping to set the bowl down on the floor inside the door. My heart sinks a little, ready to watch him retreat now that he’s delivered the soup. Instead, to my relief, he straightens and leans back against the wall.

When it comes to a decision of siding with his people or killing Lee, Flynn doesn’t hesitate to make the tough choice:

“Your people changed their minds?”

“Not exactly.” To his credit, he doesn’t try to manhandle me again, keeping a cautious distance.

I stare at him, confused. I’ve seen his hideout –granted, not much of it from the inside of my cell, but I’ll see a whole lot more of it while he’s leading me to safety. My mouth opens, I find myself asking, “What’re the other rebels going to do to you when they find out you helped me?”

The world building here is superb. The science fiction aspects to the book are explained without overpowering the story. Characters from the first novel make an appearance but their presence is needed and understandable given their relationship to other characters within this tale. A big mystery is part of the start of Lee and Flynn’s relationship and the explosive conclusion to that is all one could ask for.

But what I loved most about this story was the relationship building between the two characters. Too often the star-crossed lovers trope is all about ironing out the differences. In this case, it is all about finding common ground. Both characters have thrown their hearts and souls into the war between their people but they can’t help but grow closer the more they know each other. For all their contrasts they share a passion for caring for others, for doing the right thing and for finding solutions that work for everyone. While their cultures are dissimilar the love of tradition is something they have in common. And the heat between them is intense, from that first moment when their eyes meet across the bar all the way through the book.

I move after her and duck my head to find her lips with mine. It’s all I want to do. She surges up against me like she’s been waiting for this, lips parting, arms curling around my neck. Everything crowds together – grief, desire, anger, and beneath it all, a desperate hint of hope, and I can feel the sharing of it in the energy that wells up between us. I drag my hand up from her waist, my fingertips finding bare skin and the dip of her spine as hers tighten in my hair. She gasps against my mouth, a split second pause, and then we’re together again as if we’d been parted for an eternity.

Action, adventure and romance fuel this tale of two people from opposing sides realizing that love is the thing most worth fighting for. I look forward to continuing the Starbound series and learning what these two have in store. 


Learn more about or order a copy of This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, available December 23, 2014:

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Maggie Boyd, blogger, reviewer, avid reader

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