My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Length: 400 pages
Release date: 4 September 2018
Everyone in the universe knows his name. Everyone in the universe fears him. But no one realizes that notorious outlaw Ia Cocha is a seventeen-year-old girl.
A criminal mastermind and unrivaled pilot, Ia has spent her life terrorizing the Olympus Commonwealth, the imperialist nation that destroyed her home. When the Commonwealth captures her and her true identity is exposed, they see Ia’s age and talent as an opportunity: by forcing her to serve them, they will prove that no one is beyond their control.
Soon, Ia is trapped at the Commonwealth’s military academy, desperately plotting her escape. But new acquaintances—including Brinn, a seemingly average student with a closely-held secret, and their charming Flight Master, Knives—cause Ia to question her own alliances. Can she find a way to escape the Commonwealth’s clutches before these bonds deepen?
Ia stared him down. “It’s pronounced Eye-yah. You don’t spell my name; you say it.”
As I was reading Ignite the Stars, I kept having the recurring thought that this book was basically the original Throne of Glass in space. Funnily enough, when I finished reading and visited the Goodreads page the current top review there calls the book, you guessed it, Throne of Glass set in space. So I’m not the only one seeing the eerie similarities between Sarah J. Maas’s smash hit and Maura Milan’s debut. And like the other reviewer, I’m not exactly a big fan.
If you loved the original Throne of Glass, that is Book One before the series descended into pseudo-feminist Twilight, I’d wager that you’ll at least enjoy Ignite the Stars. Ia Cōcha is a clone of Celaena Sardothien, down to the ridiculous name. Which isn’t that bad by the standards of this book, considering that the male MC is literally called Knives. I think Veronica Roth’s Four has a run for his money.
Back to the point: As the supposed most dangerous criminal in the universe, Ia has more titles than the Queen of England–Sovereign of Dead Space! Rogue of the Fringe Planets! Blood Wolf of the Skies! There are more but this is where I nod off. This many badass honours would make you think she’s an off-the-charts prodigy with badass level infinity, and in fact that’s what Milan wants you to think. It just doesn’t work so well when throughout the story, Ia repeatedly makes horrible decisions and acts with the maturity of a toddler first realising that they can’t hog all the toys.
From the beginning, a 17-year-old being the best at whatever in the entire universe creates serious believability issues. It’s a hard sell, and Milan doesn’t sell it with her portrayal of Ia, who talks big but never backs it up. Eventually the illogicality of Ia being the Commonwealth’s #1 Most Wanted on her teenaged merits is addressed…but in a highly predictable way. Every twist in this book is visible from a mile off because of how heavily Milan drops her ‘hints’. Forget foreshadowing, they’re more like forelighting. Yes, I saw the ‘big twist’ coming and desperately wished that I was wrong. Yes, I was right. No, I didn’t like that twist. Not only was it painfully telegraphed, I’ve seen the trope in way too many better books than this one.
Again like Throne of Glass the book, Ignite the Stars has choppy worldbuilding that arises as the result of trying to paste two disjointed storylines into one short novel. The presumed main villains of the series are inserted mid-story very awkwardly. They come to the forefront near the end in a tacked-on subplot that fits messily at best with everything which came before. Essentially, it’s a lot like the Wyrdmark storyline of Throne of Glass–which was supposed to be about Celaena fighting an assassins’ tournament to become King’s Champion, but was really about setting her up to claim her birthright.
For all its shortcomings, Ignite the Stars was a decent, easy read. Knives and Brinn are strong deuteragonists, and Maura Milan has a good deal of fun with the supporting cast. As socially conscious YA, the story integrates a timely if heavy-handed political message on the refugee crisis. As a space opera…eh. A Spark of White Fire has set my standards frighteningly high, and Ignite the Stars could have definitely done a lot better. You’re not missing out on anything big if you skip it, but if you’ve got spare time it makes for a nice quick palate cleanser.