A gold star for Tin Star

Cover art for Tin StarTitle: Tin Star

Author: Cecil Castellucci

Publisher & Release Date: Roaring Book Press, Feb. 25, 2014

The Hook: 1) Cecil Castellucci. 2) A minority human having to survive on a backwater space station – beaten and abandoned by a cult leader when she asks too many questions. How will she survive?

The Lowdown (from Amazon): “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.”

Overall Impressions:  I loved it. I was entirely immersed in Tin Star, following Tula’s story from abandoned human afraid of aliens to someone who gains confidence in herself and eventually moves herself into something of a non-traditional role of power on the station.

In Castellucci’s universe, humans are considered rather backwater and isolationists, mostly ignored by galactic society. The power balance – major powers are early developers of space exploration, minor powers followed, and isolationists are irrelevant unless their planets have desired resources – is fascinating, and a coup in the center ripples out to their space station.The galaxy goes from a League of Worlds to an Imperium. For Tula, very little of this touches on her daily life; we see more of the effects through her interactions with mentors and friends Heckleck and Tournour, who are much more aware of the bigger picture and what it means when Imperium representatives arrive on Yertina Feray.

The story jumps forward three years and those ripples make more of an impression when three humans in green Earth Imperium Alliance uniforms show up and can’t leave. They want Tula’s help, since she’s like them; but she takes a long while to trust them – in three years she’s forgotten a lot about being human and feels (accurately) rejected and abandoned by humanity.

Now she must deal with a murder mystery, the killing of her best friend, hiding some major contraband, and her own desire for revenge.

The Highs: Tula is an awesome character, determined to survive and eventually thrive, becoming an expert in trading favors, learning to read the subtle body language of all the aliens on the station. Likewise, the fascinating Heckleck (black marketer and arranger) and Tournour (station security), who befriend Tula and help her in different ways. I wouldn’t mind reading a mini-prequel for each of them – how did they get to Yertina Feray?

How Tula views the three humans – Els, Caleb and Reza – first as inept and troublemakers, but gradually sees them as individuals, each with very different goals. She has to decide how she will help with those goals, because they need her, but she needs them too, to help widen her eyes. Castellucci make some really interesting choices with the trio.

Romance seems to play such a frequent role in YA that I feels as if my antenna are always alert for it (and whether it will be too treacly or overblown for me to want to continue reading). Tula does experience a strong attraction to one of the humans and enter into a relationship, but Castellucci rarely makes romance the focus, and the story went directions I didn’t expect but really liked.

Castellucci hints at more story to come – on one hand, I want to read it now; on the other, it’s very open to readers’ imaginations. And that’s a wonderful gift.

Buzzkills:  None!

The Source: eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor a trip into outer space was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

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One thought on “A gold star for Tin Star

  1. Pingback: Mars needs mercenaries with a heart of gold | Story Pushers

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