I finally got my hand on Starfall, sequel to Starflight, by author Melissa Landers, and it was a pleasant surprise. I always go into sequels hoping for the best, and my expectations were met. The plot was engaging and the characters, familiar, were lovable (though irritating sometimes). The character development in this book was pretty subtle. It doesn’t appear as a dynamic change or a sudden realization on the character’s part; it’s very much a process. This story follows Princess Cassia and Kane Arric, fugitives of the Rose Kingdom of Eturia. This is a plot that’s briefly introduced in Starfall, but we get to see the whole backstory as to why Cassia left her kingdom, and why Kane followed her.
The book starts off with an argument between Kane and Cassia, one whose roots are growing frayed with time: Kane loves Cassia, and Cassia loves Kane, but she refuses to give him a chance because of her royal origins. When they get back to Eturia, and she knows that it will happen, they will never be allowed to be together. Kane leaves in a huff, stinging from some backhanded comment that Cassia makes. Cassia chooses to work on a Banshee retrieval mission, only to find that she’s walked into a trap set by the Daeva, intergalactic bounty hunters (as far as I can tell) who have been paid to bring her back to her kingdom. Cassia suffers pretty badly at their hands and this later results in PTSD, which was an interesting plot point that was resolved badly. It’s remedied in one chapter, later on, but it happens very quickly, which isn’t too true to the disorder. Still, her capture at the hands of the Daeva coincides, unfortunately, with Kane’s cozying-up to one of Gage Spaulding’s sales associates– while he’s making out with this chick on a simulated beach, Cassia is being beaten within an inch of her life. This puts an enormous amount of guilt upon his shoulders when he later finds out what happened to Cassia, and guilt is always a fun character circumstance. This is the path that the rest of the book follows in regards to their relationship: Kane and Cassia upsetting each other, making confessions to each other, fixing their friendship, and then being punched in the gut by some perceived betrayal that one or the other has apparently made. This isn’t a bad thing at all, just a point of observation.
All in all, I found Starfall to be a really exciting read, but so emotionally exhausting at times. There are some books that are emotionally exhausting because of all the terrible things happening to the characters, but in this one, it was just the amount of arguing that goes on between Kane and Cassy. Their relationship follows the highs and lows of a roller-coaster; it’s a constant tug between two extremes, there’s never a pause to breathe. Still, these moments of relationship drama are put on hold to deal with the kingdom drama that Cassia is facing, and boy is there a lot of it. Between Marius, the twisted new king of Eturia whom she abandoned at the altar, and a strange new disease that is vexing her subjects, and a rebellion that wants her off the throne– Cassia finds herself in the throes of deposal, deceit, and betrayal.
There is a love triangle in this book! Several, actually, but the main one is Cassia – Captain Jordan – Kane. Jordan is an Eturian commander (?) that makes his first appearance during Cassia’s imprisonment in her kingdom. He’s an aloof, militaristic man with a cunning mind, his sights set on fixing up the country. This is one of the only love triangles that I’ve read in recent times, that didn’t totally annoy me. I think this is because the triangle only existed when Kane messed up. Otherwise, Cassia was pretty much devoted to him. She flirts with Jordan a little, even considers starting a relationship with him after a particular brutal blow on Kane’s part, but her heart is never in it. Also, Ms. Landers doesn’t go on for pages and pages about “should I choose Jordan or should I choose Kane,” which is something that love-triangle authors tend to do, and a tactic that is quick to put me off a book.
Doran and Solara make minute, blink-and-you-miss-it appearances which I’m actually glad for, because they weren’t the main characters of this story. Daro the Red returns, as do the pirates, and so do Spaulding Industries. Captain Reny shows up and he makes an interesting new friend, so that’s something to look out for. We’re introduced to a lot of new locations and characters as well as some familiar faces, so it’s a fun time. Also– the antagonist’s evil plan actually caught me off guard. I had no idea that they had been planning what they had been planning, and the disease sub-plot also takes an unexpected twist.
I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Starfall and anyone who enjoys the sci-fi, fantasy genre. It’s a great duology featuring friendship, love, and space adventures; who isn’t up for that? And I’m glad that Melissa Landers ended her story here, because I feel like any more stories featuring these characters would start to dilute the world that she’s created. Starfall can’t be read on its own, though, so anyone who’s interested should definitely start with Starflight, which I really, really enjoyed as well. Happy reading!