Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

by - January 07, 2020

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray (2017)

If you're a Star Wars fan, then you must be familiar with Claudia Gray's other book Lost Stars. Lost Stars is a YA sci-fi novel set during the original trilogy. The two protagonists grow up as friends but become enemies on opposite sides of the war, and have to reconcile their loyalties and their love.

Defy the Stars is also a YA sci-fi enemies to lovers novel, albeit in Gray's original universe. And this is something I've stated again and again but if you are a Reylo then you should read this. If you like darksider/lightsider ships in Star Wars then you should read this. If you loved Bastila and Revan, or Ventress and Voss, or Cal and Second Sister then this is the book for you.

I rated this novel 3.5/5 stars. It has its ups and downs, to be explained below.

What is Defy the Stars about?

She's a soldier - Noemi Vidal is willing to risk anything to protect her planet, Genesis, including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she's a rebel.
He's a machine - Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel's advanced programming has begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he's an abomination.
Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they're not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they're forced to question everything they'd been taught was true.
Fast-paced, romantic, and captivating, Defy The Stars is a story about what it means to be human, about deciding what you truly believe in, and about finding your place in a dangerous world.

So basically, An Angry Rebel With Prejudices and A Lonely Android Boy Who Learns How To Love team up against their wishes, save the world, and fall for each other. 

I want to point out that this novel was loads of fun, and had the following tropes:
  • Legit enemies to lovers
  • Fake dating
  • Sick scene


The romance
“Maybe it's not a love the way a human would feel it," he says. "Maybe it's only a... simulation of love, a close analogue. But I feel it with all the strength I have to feel anything. Over the past weeks I've come to - to listen for your voice, because I hope to hear it. I pay attention to irrelevant details of your mannerisms and appearance because I find them pleasing. I've begun to understand how you think and what you want. That means I can see through your eyes, too, instead of only my own, and it's as if the entire universe expanded, grew larger and more beautiful." He pauses. "You even make me think in metaphors.”
Abel and Noemi's romance is a believable slow-burn that develops with the plot and their characters. It isn't insta-love. It doesn't come out of nowhere. It makes sense given everything they've gone through together, and how they change as people.

Defy the Stars embodies my favorite thing about the enemies to lovers trope. These two characters have to overcome their prejudices and comfort zones to find love. Because they learn that they do have things in common, and that they do care for each other, and the other isn't as horrible as they originally thought. Getting to know each other made them better people. And if that isn't peak romance, then I don't know what is.

Also, Abel is so cute. He's an android that doesn't understand why he likes staring at Noemi so much, why he wants to protect her, why he hates the idea of losing her. At the end of the novel, there's a scene where he tells another character his "symptoms" and the other character points out that he's in love. Oh my heart. I am adopting him as my son. I have already signed the papers and he's coming home with me tomorrow.

The characters

Noemi and Abel are very likable. That isn't a problem here. Noemi is a spiritual child soldier who puts the fate of her planet before herself. Abel is a blunt, polite android who truly loves his creator and is loyal to a fault. They really are the best for each other.

The philosophy
Where there's no free will, there's no sin.
This is what bumped up my rating from 3/5 stars to 3.5 stars. The most interesting thing about Defy the Stars is that Noemi doesn't start respecting Abel because she falls in love with him. She starts respecting him because she realizes he has a soul. I really enjoyed the philosophizing that Noemi went through, and how her empathy for Abel grew the longer they were together. It's also interesting that Noemi is religious but Abel is an atheist android, but they manage to reconcile their beliefs. This is the one thing that sets this novel apart from similar stories, I think. I really enjoyed Gray's exploration of philosophy and religion in a sci-fi setting.

The worldbuilding

As Abel and Noemi travel across the galaxy, they stop by various planets. I thought each one was very interesting! You can tell Gray did her research on theories to terraform various planets, as well as throwing in the usual fun SF references. I also liked her commentary on human destruction and how we've ruined the environment. It's Very Real.


Episodic feeling

I don't read a lot of sci-fi so I don't know if this is just a sci-fi novel thing, but it felt too much like a video game or an action film. It was predictable in the sense that Abel and Noemi go to a planet for a MacGuffin, run into trouble, leave the planet for another one, rinse and repeat. Oh, there were many times when I was on the edge of my seat worried when they got captured or injured, but I knew that they weren't in any real danger... they were obviously going to overcome it and get to another planet! I just wish I was surprised more.

Don't get me wrong. This was a very fast-paced fun read but I like a little unpredictability.

Difficult to connect to characters at first

I don't know if it's because I've gotten so used to first person POVs or if it's just because Noemi is written a little distantly, but I think too many things happened at the start, before we learned enough about them to care for them. For example, something heartbreaking and tragic happened within the first five chapters. It made the plot ball start rolling but at that point... I didn't really know enough about the characters to care or feel sad.

Also, I found it weird how we're always told that Noemi is hotheaded, unlikable, and bad at making friends, etc. Basically, your average aloof action heroine. But I didn't get that from her interactions with other characters. Even when meeting strangers, she seemed likable. In hindsight, I think this was a way to prove her self-consciousness and guilt over who she is, but eh, it was very strange when I first read it.

Tangentially, several side-characters just felt like plot devices. I don't mind this too much, but if these characters are Noemi and Abel's "friends", I wish I could feel that more.

Also, please note that this is a very plot-driven book. The pro is that this means their romance blooms along with the plot rather than bogging it down. The con is that I wish we had a little more character focus alongside the rapid fire missions. You know, the way Leigh Bardugo does it.

TL;DR Defy the Stars has an excellent slowburn romance, interesting philosophy, and an action-filled and fast-paced plot. Some aspects were lacking but it's still an enjoyable read. I doubly recommend it if you are a Reylo, or if you just really adore enemies to lovers.

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