Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan

by - April 22, 2020

Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan (2018)

Ignite the Stars is an action-packed YA sci-fi novel with a slow burn enemies to lovers romance and an enemies to friends relationship. I rated it 5/5 stars.

This review was originally posted on Goodreads, where most of my reviews are increasingly published. Check out the original review here.

What is Ignite the Stars about?

Everyone in the universe knows his name. Everyone in the universe fears him. But no one realizes that notorious outlaw Ia Cōcha 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?

Potential AO3 tags:
  • Slow sloww burn
  • Hate to love (both romantic and platonic)
  • Asian MC
  • Battling space imperialism
  • They Annoy Each Other Until They Fall in Love
  • "I'm Just Using Him," She Said (Reader, She Lied)

On to the review...

Mif, where do I even start?

I had some minor issues with this novel but they won't stop me from rating it a solid 5 stars.

WARNING: This review points out all the positives of this novel. Yeah, it's not balanced. In terms of romance, I hardcore shipped them at the beginning, but at the end I cared about everything equally--protagonist, plot, love story, even her other relationships. This is not a romance-centered novel. It's a plotty sci-fi read that balances character relationships with plot and action.

Let's meet our main character Ia. The Blood Wolf of the Skies. You've seen this protagonist before. She's a ruthless war criminal, a badass bitch who isn't here to make friends. She fights for a noble cause but she also takes glee in torturing her enemies. She loves her brother though, and her main character arc results in her learning some compassion and friendship.

But I love Ia because her brutality isn't censored. There are consequences to all that blood on her hands. She knows that she's done terrible things and doesn't excuse herself. While her inner softie is eventually revealed, it doesn't take over. So many times, "ruthless" YA protagonists turn into simpering, feather-soft woobies. Ia is not one of those.

Ia learns to acknowledge that there are two sides. Even if she's fighting against a corrupt colonizer--the Commonwealth--those are still soldiers on the other side of the battlefield. Real humans whose lives she's ruined. And she feels guilty about that. But she doesn't wallow in self-pity. I thought that was pretty refreshing. I usually looove angst (sorry) but I adore her internal strength too.

Then we have Knives, jaded starboy and Ia's love interest. Their romance was an intense slow burn that hooked me at first. I mean, they start out despising each other. They fight and beat each other up and it's no secret they're sworn enemies. Eventually they become friends and then lovers. I wasn't that convinced by the romance at the end (I thought it would be much slower going) but I still didn't mind it. Knives' father is a famous general and everyone expects him to follow in his family's footsteps. But after his star pilot sister was killed on a mission, he's gotten rid of his rose-colored glasses and seen the Commonwealth for the soulless machine that it really is.

Lastly, Brinn. She annoyed me at first but eventually grew on me. Her character is pretty fascinating. She's a Tawny, an oppressed race that's forced to become refugees on Commonwealth planets. But she grew up in the Commonwealth and loves the Commonwealth. She hides her Tawny identity, hates it, and considers herself a Commonwealth Citizen first and foremost. Her sheer nationalism despite how terribly her people have been treated is a fascinating parallel, I think, and also reminds me a bit of Lost Stars.

The novel starts with some fast-paced action. I couldn't put it down and read 10 chapters straight! But while it's mainly plot-driven, it slows down in the middle to give us a glimpse into the characters and relationships. The pacing is divinely balanced and I cannot deny Milan's technical skills in this aspect. Some parts were cliche but this book is just so objectively good that I don't care.

Plus, let's discuss Milan's prose. Hers is simple, meant to keep you on the edge of your seat, just like how sci-fi books are usually written. But she knows how to trim the fat and hone every word. Her sentences are slim but some of them blew me right away.

Also, the revelation of the villain by the end? I'm into him. Lordt, I'm into him. Why am I like this.

This book was so good.

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Note: this is a very typical sci-fi read. If you're a fan of the genre and love focus on building character relationships, then this book is for you. But if you're looking for something wildly original, then this isn't it.

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