A dangerous cat-and-mouse quest for revenge. An empire that spans star systems, built on the bones of a genocide. A carefully hidden secret that could collapse worlds, hunted by three women with secrets of their own. All collide in this explosive space opera debut from a powerful new voice in sci-fi.
On a dusty backwater planet, occasional thief Jun Ironway has gotten her hands on the score of a lifetime: a secret that could raze the Kindom, the ruling power of the galaxy.
A star system away, preternaturally stoic Chono and brilliant hothead Esek— the two most brutal clerics of the Kindom—are tasked with hunting Jun down.
And tracking all three across the stars is a ghost from their shared past known only as Six. But what Six wants is anyone’s guess. It’s a game of manipulation and betrayal that could destroy them all. And they have no choice but to see it through.
These Burning Stars is the first book in the space opera trilogy The Kindom, written by Bethany Jacobs, and published by Orbit Books. A really ambitious debut novel, whose plot is engaging and really complex, with characters that you will end caring about, all enveloped into a superb world-building that will provoke you to think a lot.
A coin that threatens to unveil the implication of the Nightfoot family (and by implication, the reality of how the Kindom works) on the Jevani genocide lands in the hand of Jun Ironway, hacker and con artist; revealing its content to the public might shake the pillars of the Kindom and the sevite that fuels the interplanetary travel. The Kindom tasks two of their most brutal cleric, Esek (heir to the Nightfoot empire) and Chono with recovering it before the truth is exposed, starting a persecution across the galaxy.
With this premise in mind, Jacobs weaves a complex story, using three different POVs, while mixing together two timelines, being the past haunted by the mysterious figure of Six, a figure that was an integral part of Esek and Chono's past.
And let me tell you something, the way Jacobs has created morally grey characters, and how they are used to exploring certain aspects of the Kindom is absolutely outstanding; the relationship of power and abuse between Esek and Chono is just a reflection of how the Kindom uses people as disposable materials, while Six represents the break with that kind of structures.
After all, we discover many truths behind the idealistic depicting the Kindom has at the start, showing how, in reality, is just a power structure that dehumanizes all of their components just to perpetuate the power of those in charge. Jevani's genocide is just a speck of dust in the blood soaked knife's blade of the Kindom; and even in the formation of clerics, we can observe how they are striped of their own identity and gender, being homogenized as "it", not giving them autonomy to choose an identity until they are deemed as mature.
Jacobs' writing makes an excellent job of transporting us to this complex mouse and cat game, this persecution that encloses a much bigger purpose at the end; the pacing is excellent, and how the time jumps are situated helps to give more emotional impact to certain situations (and honestly, the ending will leave you heavily affected).
These Burning Stars is an excellent space opera, a book that you can't believe is the debut book from Bethany Jacobs; if you like complex plots cemented on multilayered characters, give it a try.
Bethany Jacobs is a former college instructor of writing and science fiction, who made the leap to education technology. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading, trying out new recipes, and snuggling in bed with a TV show she’s already watched ten times. She lives in Buffalo, New York, with her wife and her dog and her books. These Burning Stars is her debut novel.