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A Conspiracy of Stars

Review

A Conspiracy of Stars

When, just a few decades ago, the spaceship Vangantur crash landed on the planet Faloiv, the survivors found a strange new world inhabited by interesting flora and fauna and a sophisticated alien culture. Two generations later, those born on Faloiv in the human N’Terra community are coming of age and getting ready to enter the workforce as intern scientists in Olivia A. Cole’s YA sci-fi novel A CONSPIRACY OF STARS. Octavia and her friends are excited to join in the work of their parents and grandparents, to continue to learn about Faloiv and ways to improve their lives there. Octavia’s entry into the labs she has yearned to enter, however, awakes in her a latent ability that brings her both into danger and closer to the possibility of real understanding.

"This novel is sure to appeal to young and adult readers alike and is published just in time for Black History Month."

Octavia is a bright and eager student and a loyal friend. Like many teenagers her relationship with her parents is changing. But, the tension between her and her father seems beyond the norm and her brilliant mother is at work more than she is at home. The internships come as a wonderful surprise to Octavia and her best friend Alma, who will get to live with Octavia’s family. Also in Octavia’s intern group is the quiet, handsome and smart Rondo. Even though they have grown up together in N’Terra, they never knew each other well. Now their chemistry is undeniable. Romance is just a subplot. The real story is about belonging and the power of empathy.

Once Octavia and the others begin their work, they are taken to places previously off limits. Each time, Octavia has the same powerful experience: she can hear the thoughts and feelings of the animals of Faloiv. This leads her to the realization that the work being done in the N’Terra labs is far from ethical and perhaps incredibly dangerous. There is a faction of the leadership that wants to exploit the animals and indigenous people of Faloiv for their own selfish ends and Octavia’s parents are caught in the scientific and political conflict. As she comes to understand the gift of communication she has, Octavia, with the assistance of Alma’s knowledge and Rondo’s hacking skills, may be able to disrupt the terrible plans of the Council of N’Terra and move her community toward a better, more equitable and more peaceful relationship with the Faloiv people. First she will need to decide who she can trust and ask tough questions about her family and community.

A CONSPIRACY OF STARS is a great YA debut from Cole. The novel starts out a bit slow but the world building is solid. Cole borrows liberally from many sci-fi and speculative fiction tropes but her characters are compelling and interesting and her focus on the themes of home, community, family and justice as well as her examination of empathy, elevates the novel. Her heroine’s name is an ode to Octavia Butler and the fact that her characters are all Black, brings a much needed injection of diverse perspective into sci-fi. The end of the book hints at a second installment that would hopefully give more background on the passengers of the Vangantur and the world they left behind. This novel is sure to appeal to young and adult readers alike and is published just in time for Black History Month.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on February 1, 2018

A Conspiracy of Stars
by Olivia Cole