Cover Image: The Forbidden Stars

The Forbidden Stars

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Member Reviews

It’s always a risk to jump into a series or a multi-volume story, like this one, and in general I don’t recommend it. It takes great skill on the author’s part to bring a new reader up to speed without boring those who already know the backstory. When I asked for a review copy of The Forbidden Stars, I assumed it was a direct sequel to The Wrong Stars. Wrong (excuse the pun) book, though. However, since I loved The Wrong Stars, I decided to take a chance. After a little coming-up-to-speed, I found myself immersed in the plot, getting re-acquainted with my favorite characters, and thoroughly enjoying the tale.

Having expanded across the galaxy, humanity considers its future bright. Sure, there are occasional territorial clashes, and aliens called Liars because of their obsessive duplicity. But when, in the first book, Captain Callie Machedo and her crew discover an artifact of an unknown, possibly extinct or unimaginably ancient alien race, the Liars react with horror. Humans are now on the brink of making contact with the long-dormant, genocidal race, the Axiom. The Axiom’s reaction when it contacts another sapient race is to destroy it, and they have technology beyond anything humans have achieved to do it. There is nowhere in the galaxy beyond their reach, and no species has ever survived first contact, except the Liars, their client race. 

Now, in the third book, Callie and her crew, aided by their mysterious client, the Benefactor, are determined to bring the battle to the Axiom.

And we get to go along for the ride. 

What a ride it is, full of plots and schemes and danger, and most of all, the resourcefulness and devious craft of our heroes. It’s such a joy to have a highly competent, terrifyingly intelligent protagonist as Callie. I kept expecting her bravado to land her in a mess over her head, but that didn’t happen. The result was no less dramatic but endlessly fascinating.
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The Forbidden Stars by Tim Pratt is third in the Axiom space opera series. Like the previous books, it is banter-tastic, and has a lot of clever solutions to life-threatening problems as Our Heroes try to rescue colonists who’ve been lost for a hundred years without dooming the rest of humanity in the process. I didn’t like it as much as the first book, when everything was delightfully new, but I did think it was a satisfying end to the trilogy. CW: major character death.
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The third book in this space opera science fiction series where a small ragtag crew of humans and one friendly alien are out to stop some distinctly unfriendly aliens from destroying the human race if not the universe. Almost non-stop action, but it's not just a series of battles - the clever ideas of the scrappy crew is really what saves the day time and again as the book goes on. I think this is the final book in the series, and if so it wraps things up in an entertaining and satisfying way - though it leaves the door slightly open for more adventures featuring the crew of the White Raven, and I definitely would read more if they come to pass!
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It was a fun read and I loved it!
I don't usually start a series at the end and now I will surely read the other instalments as I want to learn more about the world building and this amazing series.
It's an engrossing and entertaining read, it's like meeting again a lot of classic tropes of a space opera and seeing them through new eyes. They look exciting and renewed.
I'll surely read other books by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Tim Pratt's "The Axiom" trilogy made a pretty damn strong first impression with "The Wrong Stars"  featuring an excellent mix of humor and space opera (with a little romance along the way).  The story featured a misfit cast of characters as the crew of a ship discovering a looming Universal Threat from a highly advanced but dormant species of aliens, and the resulting work was a pretty close to perfect lighthearted story that made me crack up and smile while still posing serious consequences for our heroes.  I didn't quite love as much the second book, The Dreaming Stars, quite as much, as I felt the book lost a bit of the oddball humor and charm that I loved about the first - it was still pretty good mind you, just not as good.

The Forbidden Stars continues this downward trend and accelerates it, to my disappointment.  The book focuses far more than its predecessors in a single character's perspective and features a far less interesting conflict for most of its duration.  Moreover, not only does the book lose much of its humor, but it feels for much of it like a completely different type of book altogether: one following a hyper competent military-esque agent waging a one woman war on an oppressive underestimating enemy.  There's nothing wrong with that type of plot and its competently executed, but it's not what I've come to expect from the first two books in the series, and even executed nicely it feels kind of generic as a result.

-----------------------------------------------------Plot Summary---------------------------------------------------
Callie and the crew of the White Raven have managed to survive and destroy two installations built and hidden in space by the evil Axiom, the now dormant alien race with a habit for genocidal dominance and control.  They've gotten used to using some of the Axiom's own tech against them, even if it's tough to be the only ones who know the threat exists, with little help outside their own crew.  And Callie's tight crew, with her new XO (and lover) Elena, pilots Drake and Janice, tech guy and self-modification lover Ashok, along with the alien Lantern and her AI Shall, are tight as ever and ready to try and continue to take steps to safeguard the galaxy.

But when the mysterious person identifying itself as "The Benefactor" suggests that Callie and the White Raven investigate the one system in the galaxy that was once open to Humans before the wormhole gate cut off, the crew finds themselves up against a place where humans have quite clearly come in conflict with enemy alien forces.....and lost devastatingly.  Joined by an AI agent of the Benefactor who claims to be there to help, Callie and the White Raven will have to face down a system of aliens dedicated to scientific experiment on humanity, if they want to prevent greater horrors down the line.  But even if they're able to somehow triumph and save the day once again, the question remains: who exactly is the Benefactor and what is his real agenda?  Because someone with such knowledge and technology could possibly be as much a threat as anything else if he's truly not on their side.....
The prior two books in the series have used multiple point of view characters to tell the story: the first book alternated between Callie and Elena's points of view, while the second book alternated between Callie, Elena, and Stephen.  This worked really well to play up the fun natures of this ensemble cast, as well as the relations between them (particularly in Callie/Elena's romance in the first book).  The Forbidden Stars on the other hand, is near-entirely told - with one notable portion of the book being a rare exception - from Callie's point of view.  It's a very noticeable change which makes this book feel a lot less like an ensemble book and a lot more like a book about Callie, badass starship captain and fighter for justice.

Which does work, because Callie is still a fun and excellent character to read, as she finds herself and the ship in constant danger - often of her own making.  This book treats Callie a lot like a one woman army, a commando who can barely be stopped, thanks to her own quick thinking and ingenuity, and the technological advantages she's obtained over the past two books.  She's paranoid at times, compassionate at others, basically everything you'd expect after the first two books, but just more into a commando mold than previously in the series.

Of course, this focus on Callie, and conversion of her into a one-woman ass-kicking machine, results in the book losing its focus on the rest of the characters.  Which honestly?  It's a big loss, and a mistake in my opinion.  Elena's relationship with Callie is basically always taken for granted in this book, which is weird given how important it was to the prior two books, and Elena herself barely does anything.  Shall and Lantern are still the same characters and still very functional, but the lack of focus makes them hardly anything special, which again is weird: for example, the book makes one reference to Lantern having a crush on another member of the crew (revealed at the end of book 2) and then never anything else of it.  Janice and Drake do get development in the one exception part I mentioned above, but it just comes out of nowhere, occurs, and then has no impact on anything else so it feels totally wasted.  Really the only other cast member who gets decent page time is Ashok, and even he is just basically the same as he's always been, and a lot less hilarious at this point.

Even the new character Kaustikos basically never has any personality other than to grumble about how he's being used by the crew - a discomfort that never goes anywhere - and then to perform necessary actions to the resolution of the plot at the end.  For a series that started as one that was incredibly character based to go along with a plot that allowed to great humor, this book is instead more plot-focused and the character work is mostly nonexistent.  Similarly, the humor is still here in spurts, but the book is nowhere near as humorous as even the second book.  I mean the plot of this book is fine - you'll see one twist coming a mile away, but it all works out well to a neat resolution, but the reason The Wrong Stars was so great was not because of its plot, but because of how great the characters were.  And hell, even the plot is less exciting that previous books given how damn easy everything is for Callie to resolve throughout - which I guess makes sense given her experiences leveling her up, but still this area of space has been teased as important for two whole books now and instead what we find there is pretty damn lackluster.

So yeah, The Forbidden Stars is fine, and if you've read the first two books and enjoyed them like I did, you may want to read this for the conclusion to the narrative arc.  But it's a long way down from where we started, to my major disappointment, and I wouldn't blame even a reader of the first two books from skipping it.
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Thrilling story, great plot and characters that keep you guessing right til the end.  Great for fans of this genre.  Really enjoyable.
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I keep having to play catch up with books, I am very grateful to have been given a copy to read but nothing but now I have to go buy the previous books!  This was a really enjoyable book that gave me hours of pleasure bin the reading
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This is not the 1st book in this series ……………….but is the 1st I have read and what an enjoyable Space Opera it turns out to be .
This was a heist with a difference ………………. in this case its an entire Solar System  .........… with a mark with a difference- Fascist Aliens .
How such a small group can take on and beat the odds takes some believing but that just added to my enjoyment .
There is plenty of tension , the pace is fast and the humorous banter makes for an great read .

I will certainly be going back to read the previous books in this series - a perfect way to spend a few hours .

I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Excellent end to the trilogy with tons of the Callie action and adventure you'd expect.  It's a beautiful thing to have  fun space opera be so effortlessly diverse.
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A space opera heist caper, where the target is an entire solar system, and the mark is a group of fascist aliens (servants of Mythos-esque, godlike, ancient malevolent aliens, who are sleeping but not dead). 

Because it was structured as a heist, and because it was so enjoyable, I forgave the ease with which the tiny crew achieved everything they set out to do. The third time the main progagonist went in alone into a facility full of enemies, this time almost literally with her hands tied behind her back, rather than being put off by the over-the-top unlikeliness I just thought, "Oh, it's like when Miles Vorkosigan goes into the prison camp, naked and alone, and you know that it's everyone else that's in trouble. This will be cool to watch play out."

The banter and snark are fun, the stakes are high enough to keep up some tension without ever dragging the story into the dark, and overall it's a good ride. 

I've read the first of the trilogy, but not the second; I didn't find that caused me any confusion, but I will go back and read the second one, because I enjoy these books so much.
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I missed the others in the series, but enjoyed this one. I'll have circle back. This is fun, and had good dialog, a decent space opera plot, and expected action. 

I really appreciate the advanced copy for review!!
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The Forbidden Stars is the third book in Tim Pratt’s excellent Axiom series of space opera sci-fi.

These books have picked up and hijacked some classic sci- fi plot devices and tropes – and taken them for a joy-ride. The Forbidden Stars is no different and it makes for a fun read.

A story of a found family fighting to protect everything and everyone they hold dear in the universe from an existential threat to all things – using more than a few explosives along the way – Reading The Forbidden Stars was joyous as I had missed following the adventures of the main characters.

With every book in this series, Tim Pratt has steadily levelled up his worldbuilding and expanded upon the previous works.

The Forbidden Stars ends with a satisfactory ending but leaves plenty of scope for more stories within the worlds of the series – and I for one hope there will be more to come.

Definitely one for fans of Becky Chambers Wayfarer series.

4.5 out of 5.

The Forbidden Stars will be available from 8th October 2019. (This review is based upon an uncorrected proof kindly provided by the publisher, Angry Robot, through Netgalley.)
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