Under Nameless Stars by Christian Schoon

Rating 8.8/10
Proves that YA and space opera can be a perfect mix.

Under Nameless Stars by Christian Schoon is the second book of the Zenn Scarlett duology, a book that ties everything up in a neat package, but leaves plenty of room for future books in the same universe. There aren't many YA books that take to the stars, but Schoon easily proves that YA and space opera can be a perfect mix.

The story follows on immediately after the events of the first book with Zenn Scarlett, her rikkasett Katie, and Liam Tucker stowing away on-board the Helen of Troy spaceliner. After a few close calls, Zenn manages to befriend a dolphin in a mech suit named Jules, and together they start putting together the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Zenn's father. But, as they begin their investigations, they become wrapped up in a much greater mystery, one that has huge ramifications across the whole galaxy.

The story and characters in this book would not be out of place in a Doctor Who episode. Schoon opens up his universe and takes us on a tour of an immense multi-cultural spaceliner, full of weird and wonderful aliens, and even stranger animals. Zenn and Jules drive this story, and through their eyes we get to explore some wondrous stuff with almost childlike enthusiasm. With the exception of some convoluted conspiracy theory resolution at the end (not hard to understand, just full of unnecessary explanations that take the wind out of the sails), this is fun book that I had trouble putting down.

The characters in this story do a reasonable job but it is Jules, the walking talking dolphin, that steals the show from the rest of the cast including a rather timid Zenn Scarlett. I love the whole concept of Jules' character, from his mech suit to his weakness for pulpy action adventure fiction. He owns every scene, and could easily support his own book. Zenn on the other hand doesn't get much growth at all in this book. She kind of learns to trust people, but not really. She thinks she might have feelings for Liam, but not really. She kind of meanders in this book, and while granted that this story is told over a very short time frame, I still feel like she could have finished the book in either a stronger or weaker position compared to how she started. That said, she's still a strong character, I do like her, and I do want to read more books about her in the future.

Under Nameless Stars was a pleasure to read, full of joyful moments that offset the convoluted conspiracies. At its heart, Under Nameless Stars is a book that mixes together the best elements of Doctor Who and Doctor Doolittle to tell a story about a young girl who is passionate about her job and wants to spend her life saving as many alien animals as she can.

Under Nameless Stars by Christian Schoon
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Strange Chemistry (3 April 2014)

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