Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Star’s End

By Cassandra Rose Clarke

Sci-Fi

 

Esme Coromina has always known that one day, she would run the Four Sisters, the small planet system that her father grew into a corporate empire. Raised as the pampered heir to the company, Esme lived the best years of her life at Star’s End, the estate her father built on the terraformed moon where he began his empire. In the tropical sunlight and lush gardens, Esme helped raise her three motherless half-sisters. But as Esme is groomed to take over the family business of manufacturing weapons for the mercenary groups spread across the galaxy, she slowly uncovers the sinister truth at the heart of her father’s company. And when those secrets are finally revealed, Esme is sure that she’s lost her sisters—and a part of her soul—for good.

Now, after a lifetime of following her father’s orders, Esme has a second chance. For the first time, Esme is making her own decisions and the impact of her decisions will reverberate throughout the Four Sisters. As Esme struggles to assemble her estranged sisters for one last good-bye with their dying father, she has to choose whether she wants to follow in her father’s footsteps—or blaze a daring new path.

 

It took me awhile to finish this book. The world building is stunning and it’s well written, with an interesting narration choice. There aren’t chapters, but the book alternates between a third person limited present storyline, following Esme’s current mission to find her sisters and a first person past storyline following Esme throughout her young adult years. The past portion on the book really dragged for me, I was much more interested in what present day Esme was up to than her growing up in Star’s End. Despite the back cover synopsis, the only way Esme helps to raise her sisters is telling the fleet of nannies and tutors to keep an eye on them while she’s off doing her company internship.

I could not find it in me to care about Esme. The Coromina family owns four planets. They literally make trillions of dollars a year manufacturing bioengineered soldiers and weapons to equip those soldiers. The ‘company’ is a government system called coporcracy and Esme’s father is the current ruler/CEO. People who live on the four planets are called citizen-employees. This is capitalism at full throttle. Everyone and everything on the four planets exists solely to fuel the weapons manufacture and to add to the upper echelon’s wealth. There’s a hefty dose of Big Brother as well, of course. Media is strictly monitored, business espionage is the norm, and the CEO often has troublesome people ‘relocated’.

So there’s a lot going on and in the middle of it is Esme and I wouldn’t say I hated her, but I disliked her immensely. She’s a coward and despite what the ending tries to spin, she is just like her father in terms of power ambition. She only on two occasions finds her spine and stands up to her father, but those moments are quickly over and she goes back to doing everything her father asks.

Her father is Exhibit A for sociopath. He doesn’t care about anything but his wealth and status. There are a few moments in there where Esme thinks she sees something else in him, but I chalk that up to an unreliable narrator ploy. The dude is an AssHole.

This book is 432 pages of things happening to Esme. She’s never proactive and most of the book is her waiting to be summoned or waiting for the other shoe to drop. She spends a lot of time slumping against chairs, sitting on beds, headaches from too many thoughts, and sleepless nights. The only reason this story exists is because her father sets her out to collect her estranged sisters. She wasn’t going to do it on her own.

She also spends the entirety of the book afraid. Honestly, her entire narration is dictated by fear. Fear of her father, fear she’s becoming like her father, fear for her sisters, fear of her sisters, fear for her mother, fear she’s going to do/say the wrong thing. The list goes on and it never ends. I can’t tell if Esme is supposed to be a sympathetic character or an unlikeable character. All those fears would make sense if this was a YA, but Esme is in her forties. At this point it’s Learned Helplessness and I have no time or sympathy for it. She has the emotional depth and fortitude of a wet tissue.

The characters of this book never fully come to life Esme, with all her cowering, is the most well rounded of them all. Her sisters are plot devices on Esme’s convoluted journey to redemption, her closest friend, a bioengineered soldier named Will, is another plot device whose only purpose is to help her find her sisters. Her father is the evils of capitalism personified. It gets tedious, especially since Esme does little more than fret about everything.

The ending of the book, I think, is supposed to have an A Tree Grows in Brooklyn vibe; not happy, but hopeful, but it falls a little flat. Esme may not have her father’s cruelty, but she still wants the power being CEO/ruler affords her. She promises to only use her powers for good and she’s going to help people and blah, blah, blah. But the whole thing reads like those ridiculous accounts of ‘good’ slave owners. Yeah, so some of them didn’t flay children, but they still had slaves. Yeah, Esme wants to change the company’s focus, but she’s still keeping a system in place that has proven to be easily corrupted, abused, and refers to its citizens as employees and property.

I can’t say I’d recommend Star’s End. As a dystopic system of government, it’s awesome, but the main character, Esme, has little to enjoy and can make getting through some places a chore. But if you’d like to give it a try, you can find it here:

Amazon

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Learn more about the author Cassandra Rose Clarke

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August Writing Updates!

August Writing Updates!

Hey, I’m getting pretty good at this bi-monthly update. I mean, this one is juuuuust under the wire but, fuck it. We’ll call that progress either for how organized I am or for blogging practices.

But, let’s get on to the updates!

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Last Rites: Starting with original content! If I can stick to my schedule, which I was doing really well with until I up and went to Vietnam, but oh well. Still hoping if I have enough coffee and snacks tomorrow I can finish the middle portion of this. It’s really close to being done. I have most of the major scenes written, not it’s just down to the details.

Next month is slotted for redoing the ending and having the whole thing coherent enough I stop picking at it. So by the end of September I hope to have Last Rites complete so it can sit for a minute.

oOo

Starting in October, I’m getting back into my middle grade story Charlatans. I still love this concept and I’ve reworked the character and her motivations and fixed the storyboarding. The biggest challenge for this story is the word limit which I’m stalwartly ignoring until I have it finished. October I’m looking at getting from the beginning to the mid-point.

If things go smoothly, I might finish it. But all that will depend on my work schedule and whatever else comes up in life. Also, this is the youngest I’ve ever written so making the situations believable as well as reasoning chains and choices are a challenge to me. But I haven’t done much with Charlatans in three or so years and I’ve re-storyboarded the beginning so maybe it will be easier now that I have a better idea of what I’m doing.

oOo

November kicks off NaNoWriMo so I’ll be coming up with another idea to work on during this month as well, which should be fun.

This month is jam packed with writing. If I don’t finish Charlatans I’ll be doing it this month, I also have a fanfic writing schedule and one of those stories should also be completed this month. Honestly, I’m looking at writing 150,000+ words this month if I stay on task and get done what needs to be done.

oOo

December is an Editing month, I’m going back and editing Last Rites and will hopefully like it enough to send off to my betas for critique. This is also the month I’ll be working on my synopsis and query for Last Rites. If I can stay on schedule and get edits done and back my goal is to start querying agents when I get back to the States sometime in April.

January is another editing month. I’m looking at getting Charlatans edited enough I like it to send off to my other betas. And if both stories come back and I get edits and rewrites done during this month, I’ll swap betas and resend.

oOo

February I’m diving headfirst into a story I started for NaNo a couple years ago about Death and his bounty hunters. It doesn’t even have a working title yet, but the story’s climax is right here in China so I figure my last month of teaching here would be a good time to get started on that.

If I like whatever I come up with for NaNo I’ll also be pecking away at that during February as well. But who knows. Last two NaNos I haven’t been really thrilled with the concepts and they’re just sitting in a file.

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And for those of you here about the fanfics!

August I’m looking to get another chapter done, like, this week. I wanted three chapters done this month, but I think two is a good start. Like I said last update, the story is starting to get kinda heavy and I’ve been dragging my feet getting it done. There are eight chapters left with what I currently have outlined so September I’m looking to wrap up Monster.

And then I think I’ll find a fluffy story to write because sometimes I even depress myself with the shit I write.

Has anyone ever written Ratchet/Prowl? I don’t think I’ve seen that. Maybe I’ll write that.

oOo

Anyway! October, I will be devoting time to Breach and hopefully get about 50,000 words written for that which should put us right at a good cliffhanger. I’m hoping to finish Breach in November, but again, that will depend on my work schedule, how far I get in my original writing, and what my NaNo project look like. In my writing hierarchy, fanfic comes second to original content. So it could well be December before I finish it.

I’ve gotten myself out of the quagmire though and I really like how Red Alert’s character works in this one. The ending for this one is probably the most nail biting one I’ve ever written so I’m really excited for you guys to see it.

oOo

If I do finish Breach in November, the next story is coming from the Street True AU and we’re going to learn more about Tracks! Tentative title is Nightmare and, as it’s storyboarded now, it won’t be as long as Master’s Apprentice so I should be able to finish it in a month if my work schedule isn’t weird.

This story should start to answer some questions about how the war started and who/what Helios and the Prowler crew are. Also, it will give more clarity to the first couple of chapters of Master’s Apprentice and Ratchet’s odd reflection on his choices and why he goes to hunt down Blaster. This one is definitely more political than Master’s Apprentice and gets deeper into how the war was fought, how it is fought, and what happens to the soldiers that fight in it. It’s pretty heavy, but Tracks’ story is a keystone storyline.

oOo

And *drum roll* January, I will be starting the sequel to Where the Lonely Ones Roam. Still not sure what the title will be but I am certain there will be plenty of angst and H/C. I have a couple of key scenes written and already love this one more than WtLOR. I’m so excited for you guys to read it. This one is definitely going to be long so I’ll be working on this through February and March.

 

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After February, updates are going to be slow for everything as that’s the end of my contract here in China and I’ll be traveling around both here and a couple other countries as I make my way back to the States. I refuse to do another 18 hour flight so writing time will be limited to…whenever I stop taking pictures and write I suppose.

‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the holiday season, huzzah-humbug. I’m not necessarily a Grinch. I like Christmas. I’m just not really excited about the compressed awkward family time.

My grandparents host a family Christmas a week before the 25th and as my cousins have gotten older the event has gotten a bit bigger as they bring their significant others. This year the only two singles in the family will be me, the oldest cousin, and my youngest cousin. That’s it. Everyone else will be bringing boy/girlfriends.

Usually these things don’t bother me, if I even take notice, but the holidays are always different. Someone there is going to ask if I have a date and the short answer is No. But the long answer is more complicated so I usually just go with the shoulder-shrug-and-ask-for-another-roll technique.

I’ve been spoiled by fiction. There’s Aubrey, from Amelia Atwater Rhodes’ book Demon in my View. I can still repeat passages from that book verbatim. I love it. It is one of my all time favorite books and I adore the menace that is Aubrey. Then there’s Nalini Sigh’s incredible “Guild Hunter” series with Raphael and Illium, hell, even Venom. Just writing the names makes me want to re-read the entire series from beginning to current book. And, of course, there’s Rhage and Rhev from J.R. Ward’s “Black Dagger Brotherhood” series.

These are the men I love. The huge, planet sized, problem with them is that they aren’t real. I can’t go to New York City and catch a glimpse of Illium weaving between the skyscrapers. He’s a golden eyed, blue winged, lethal piece of Nalini Singh’s imagination. But Singh is an amazing writer and when you read her stories, for a moment, those pieces of her imagination are real enough to touch. And then you finish the book and have to come back to the real world where there aren’t any angels buzzing around NYC. There are no centuries old vampires running amok in Caldwell, NY or anywhere for that matter.

You read these stories about these characters that make you laugh and cry and want to hug them and you get to know them, how they think, how they speak. And then you go out and meet some guy who does something pedestrian like bartend. Not saying bartending is a bad thing. The trick bartenders are pretty cool, but you’re not holding a candle to an angel or a werewolf or a vampire or a fae or a geomancer or a necromancer or a dragon rider. It’s like waking from a great dream. Sure there are great people out there, but I’m just not interested.
It is well known to my close family and friends that I’m oblivious to the “hey, how you doing” signals people send out. I say hello to people because I’m from the Midwest and that’s the polite thing to do. I’ll talk to you if I can’t find a polite way to leave or not talk to you. Somehow, this is misconstrued as mutual interest.

Nope.

No fangs? No wings? No supernatural abilities? I’m not interested and not paying attention. And this is why it’s so hard for me to answer the “Are you seeing anyone” question family members like to casually toss out.

Yes, because the newest Guild Hunter novel, Archangel’s Legion, by Nalini Singh is out and I do get to see them. I can pick up Demon in my View whenever I want and see Aubrey. I can re-read Lover Eternal and Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward today and see them.

But as far as the real world is concerned, no, I’m not seeing anyone because it’s just so boring.

Adventures of Aria: Culture Shock

            I recently read an absolutely amazing YA supernatural book by Jennifer Lynn Barnes called Raised by Wolves. It’s on the younger end of the YA spectrum—the main character Bryn is fifteen—but she was complex, witty, and smart. I finished this four hundred page book in only a couple hours. I couldn’t put it down long enough to even get coffee. I was completely absorbed in Bryn’s struggle, both emotional and circumstantial. I cried and laughed and cheered at the end. In other words, read this book.

            A few hours later—after coffee, shower, food, etc—I picked up an anthology of YA short stories centered on the theme of “warriors”. I picked up this particular anthology from the library to see how my character Aria stacks up against other “warrior” types. I got three pages in and I haven’t picked it up since.

            So soon after reading Ms. Barnes’ book I couldn’t get into the flat character of the first story. I can’t even remember his name. He was so…simple. His thoughts are shallow “warrior” thoughts about fame and glory and marrying a beautiful girl in the noble class. As a prolific reader of fiction, this is so genre standard it was boring to the point of anger.

            The thing that really pricked me about this is that it is genre standard. Every book I’ve ever picked up that involves a tribal or non-Caucasian culture has this flat character. The sentences and vocabulary is simple, short and they lack variety. It’s almost like these characters are written for grade school children not teens or even adults. The catch is, once these simple characters come into contact with the dominant, primarily Caucasian, culture they suddenly gain depth and more complex emotions. Suddenly, the syntax is more elegant and the vocabulary elevated.

            My character, Aria, sprang from Inuit/Nordic cultures. She lives in a clan society, but she isn’t simple. Her emotions are complicated when it comes to who and what she is and how she interacts with her clan. If I were to change her setting to the modern world, certainly she would have trouble describing modern technologies, but that wouldn’t make her any less intelligent.

            This sub-conscious ethnocentric assumption needs to stop. So you’ve chosen to write a character with more melatonin than you? That doesn’t mean they are stupid and slow witted children who need a more dominant culture to hold their hand and “educate” them.