Book Review: Sisters of the Forsaken Stars

Sisters of the Forsaken Stars by Lina Rather

🌲🌲🌲/5

*****This entire review contains spoilers from book 1, Sisters of the Vast Black*****

A year has passed since the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita responded to disaster and witness the atrocities of Central Governance against the isolated colony of Phyosonga III. They, and the few survivors of the colony, pledged silence and fled…but word is spreading of the nuns who disobeyed and lived to see the day, and revolution is sparking everywhere in the outer systems…

I would like to be a person who answers a call when no one else is listening.

After the fantastic debut of Sisters of the Vast Black, I was really, really looking forward to seeing where the story of nuns in space would go.

And yet, this book had…not much happening. There was a lot of thought. A lot of angst. A lot of religious and philosophical overtones that bored me. And an introduction of new characters and a climax that ultimately fizzled away as much as the rest of the plot did.

Which was a disappointment, because the world introduced in Vast Black was complex, deadly, and filled with really fascinating worldbuilding, with an Earth struggling to retain control of humanity through any means possible, the place of organized religion in such remote and isolated areas, and an internal exploration of the many ways a person would enter a religious order. Then there was an intense showdown of both internal and external proportions, complete with a living ship and the false-martyrdom of a women slowly losing her grip (but not the remembrance of the atrocities she committed).

Forsaken Stars, on the other hand, lacks the quiet eloquence that made the first so riveting to read.

Okay, that’s not quite right. It is eloquent, but there was something missing. Like the nuns, who were torn between being a flame in the darkness or slinking off into obscurity, this book didn’t quite seem to know what it was or what it wanted.

There were so many different plot points for such a short book (technically novella), but this view of life post Phyosonga III was ultimately a lot of talk and not much action, as the sisters learn of a convention at a planetary university, discover someone is talking about what happened and turning their old mother into a martyr, and they decide to investigate and lay their trouble at the university’s feet hoping for…support? While also knowing this is a trap and exactly what Central Governance wants. Then there’s the appearance of a long-lost sister (and a whole bunch of backstory), along with the arrival of a wannabe novitiate, both of whom have definite ulterior motivations but also convincing arguments for sanctuary/protection.

Meanwhile, in the fourth system, the sister who left (can’t remember her name, don’t really care), is hanging out with her new girlfriend aboard her ship. There’s lots of angst there, as Former Sister is working through both the trauma of Phyosonga and the leaving of her religious vows, and her trying to figure out her path both on the ship, as a person in general and also what the fuck she’s going to do with the knowledge of what happened with the Central Governance. Then there’s a sideplot but not really of a herd of living ships roaming about the outer fourth system, living wild and free.

These two timelines don’t connect, but do come to a head when Central Governance finds (both) of them, and there is a huge showdown that is again, both internal and external, as the sisters face death from the outside and also potential death from within as they deal with sabotage.

Anywho, the ultimate clash comes down to next to nothing. There is an almost easy-breezy solution for what has been built up throughout the course of the novella as an impossible, no-win situation, followed by a denouement which leaves the characters in practically the same position as they were at the start of the book, although with maybe a touch more resolution on what they are going to do next.

There is a heavy discussion throughout the book of the price of martyrdom (who gets or deserves to be a martyr), the way information is distorted/used to sway minds, and the cost of revolution (both being a figurehead and surviving it), along with what it means to be the lighting fuse of something you never really intended—not to mention what it means to be a Roman Catholic order of nuns who no longer report to the Church. However, all of these discussions and thoughts fizzle in the climax and subsequent denouement, with nothing coming to a resolution but more of the same.

Welp, I wrote more than I intended, and my review is a mess but my thoughts about this book are a mess too. I was very, very excited for this one, and it just did not live up to my internal hype.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

Sisters of the Forsaken Stars releases February 15 from Tor

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