The Stars We Steal

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 4 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

Princess Leonie Kolburg (Please, call her Leo; and most definitely not a royal title) is in desperate need of funds in order to keep her ship, the Sofi, running. It's been generations since the people of earth fled to space as the earth froze over, and supplies and funds are running low as populations and ship repairs grow. Leo enters the season, known as the Valg, halfheartedly looking for a rich husband and wholeheartedly trying to sell her water filtration system to other ships. The last thing Leo expects is to be reminded of her first love--and first heartbreak--when Elliot Wentworth comes to rent her ship.

Worst of all, Leo is still in love with Elliot. But does he feel the same?

A 'stellar' sophomore novel by Donne--who dazzled readers with her 2018 debut, a "Jane Eyre" retelling titled "Brightly Burning"--"The Stars We Steal" blends Jane Austen with a glittering high-tech sci-fi world. With a fantastic cast of characters, brilliantly witty dialogue, and a page-turning will-they-or-won't-they? dynamic between Leo and Elliot, "The Stars We Steal" is sure to leave readers spell-bound and eager for more.
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I remember when the cover for The Stars We Steal was revealed, I kept going back to look at it. Even though it is simple, it is so stunning and eye catching. Then I learned that it was set in space. I was sold! Later on I learned that The Stars We Steal is space meets The Bachelor and a loose retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. This book sucked me in from page one and didn't let me go until the very last page.

The Stars We Steal isn't a heavy science fiction novel as I had expected. I would have loved to know more about why they left earth, how long it's been and all of those nitty gritty details. The science fiction was more secondary to the romance. Which makes sense, since this story is about Leo looking for a husband to save her family from finical ruin. I am not as familiar with Jane Austen's Persuasion as I am familiar with The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but it was fun seeing a how this two things combined and created this book.
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**Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Netgalley, and Alexa Donne for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

I previously read Alexa Donne's debut novel, Brightly Burning and wasn't *super* thrilled with the book - but I loved the writing and when I see Bachelorette... coupled with SPACE... I know that's a book I 100% need to read, and it did NOT disappoint. Leo is the Princess of her ship in space - where these titles are still used to create a classist society, even when it's totally not necessary. The Valg is their way of creating marriages (that aren't with your cousins...) among the elite, rich, and/or titled young people. Leo is participating in The Valg to find a rich husband, because her family is in dire need of funds, not because she wants to. As the oldest child of a man who spends money faster than it could possibly come in, she needs to be the adult and keep their spaceship afloat. Enter, her ex-fiance Elliot whom her family made her break the engagement to because he didn't have money. Now? He is the sole heir to a prosperous whiskey ship and has plenty of money. Problem? He's seriously pissed at her...

Ya'lllllll I loved this book. I read it all in one night because I could not put it down. Alexa Donne weaved so many elements together that you wouldn't expect to work together, but pulled it off perfectly. I'm a huge sucker for Bachelor style plots, but it's not JUST that. You have murder, intrigue, theft, Robin Hood-esque schemes, rebel groups, cyber attacks, AND wealthy extravagance from young people who have nothing better to do than be petty and make drama. Like, let's gooo!

I am obsessed. Her writing worked so well with these elements and I found it SO much more enjoyable than her other classics spin in space. Currently starting a petition to re-write all the classics in a futuristic space society. Needs to happen.

The Stars We Steal, Alexa Donne's second book, is a stand-alone space adaption of Persuasion by Jane Austen and will have you hooked from the first few pages. Leo is a strong character who is put in an untenable situation and trying to make the most of it. Pick it up if you enjoyed her first book, Brightly Burning, or are a fan of retellings and/or space!
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**Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for and honest review**

When initially reading the blurb, I figured it was a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. But it wasn’t until I got half way through the book where I realized how I was getting more of a Bacherlorette vibe from the story. (And the front cover is also a rose!) If you’re looking for a brief blurb on the story, think Persuasion + The Bachelorette + The One That Got Away + Love Triangles + Family Drama.

The Stars We Steal follows Leonie Kolburg, a German princess and heir to The Sofi, and old European spaceship. As her family are close to facing bankruptcy, Leo must find a way to save her family from financial ruin. Unfortunately, Leo is backed into her only option: Valg Season, where she’ll have to find a wealthy suitor to marry off to. Her plans go astray as Elliot, her first love, returns. The past memories and the regrets overwhelm Leo as the two tip-toe around each other, hurt from the past and by each other.

The story takes place in the future where the Earth is barren and no longer inhabitable. Wealthy families who were fortunate enough to have boarded a space ship in time have lived outer space. Countries are replaced by fleets like The Scandinavian, The Empire, Lady Liberty, and Saint Petersburg. While the story took place among the elite and the wealthy, there exists turmoil amidst the lower classes and the stirring of a possible revolution. The world building was really interesting, but I did wish that the author had spent more time bringing us into the world.

The story was definitely more focused on the drama and the romance while the looming revolution and politics was a weaker subplot. As a result, while I did fully get to know the characters, I didn’t completely feel immersed in their world.

But I’m not going to say that I didn’t enjoy the romance and the characters. It was what made the book so entertaining! Rather, my investment in Leo was what kept me flipping through the story. Running her own ship and maintaining family affairs at the age of eighteen, Leonie was a character that I learned to admire. She’s independent and self-driven, determined to find a way to solve her family’s financial burdens without having to marry for money. 

The advancing plot and the anticipation to see how Valg Season played out made it a really quick read. The cliff hangers at the end of every chapter keeps you going. Just like you would when watching a TV series, you can’t help but move to the next episode, the question of “what happens next?” looming over your head. If you’re looking from something like the Bachelor/the Bachelorette or are a fan of Kiera Cass, you should definitely give this book a read.
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I enjoyed Alexa Donne's previous book, Brightly Burning, which was a retelling of Jane Eyre. Similarly, The Stars We Steal launches Jane Austen's Persuasion into space. I enjoyed the overall storyline and felt it was unique while still integrating critical elements of the source work. The worldbuilding was creative with its descriptions of the ship's futuristic amenities. I loved a particular scene were the main characters, Leo and Elliot, were outside the ship on a spacewalk.

However, I think the dialogue could have been more interesting, especially between Leo and Elliot. I didn't feel a true spark between them. Both characters were hot and cold towards each other, which made it difficult to follow their motivations at times. Despite this, I was definitely rooting for them and was satisfied with the ending.

I recommend this if you're a fan of retellings with a touch of sci-fi! (I also appreciated the sexual orientation inclusivity of this one).

A sincere thanks to NetGalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for providing an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Social: @_shelf.awareness on Instagram
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I love how honest and flawed the characters in this book are. It's so hard to make a character that someone wants to cheer for and still be realistic. It's also a little cheesy, but that comes with the territory when The Bachelorette goes to space. However, it is still fun and reads quickly.
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The Stars We Steal is a love story set in the future and is based loosely on Jane Austin’s Persuasion. Instead of country estates and mansions, though, the wooing, heartache, and revenge takes place on space ships. 

Because Earth is uninhabitable due to an environmental disaster, each continent has their own ship. Princess Leo is heir to a bankrupt and somewhat decrepit ship, the Scandinavian, and the burden of marrying for wealth is falling on her. Enter her ex-fiancé, Elliot who has a bone to pick with Leo and isn’t afraid to take his revenge on her in some pretty despicable ways. 

Alexa Donne has taken the well-known story of Persuasion and given it a unique futuristic twist that is an enjoyable read for any fan of romance with a heavy dose of sci-fi.
3.5 ⭐⭐⭐'s rounded up to 4

A big thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Childrens Book Group for providing this book for my honest review.
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I loved this new take on Jane Austen's Persuasion - in space! This swoony book is perfect for fans of Kiera Cass and Stephanie Garber.
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I was first drawn to this book for its beautiful cover, but I quickly realized after I picked it up that I could not put it down. A mix of The 100 meets Robin Hood and one of those silly dating shows on television best describes many interesting twists to this tale.

Although I was cautious at first as I read a few reviews stating that the ending was not thought out, I found that I disagreed. I really enjoyed the ending,  It provided a tsunami of drama, events, and twists that kept me turning the pages and hoping for a second book to find out what happens to the characters and to see how they have grown due to the events that have taken place. (There is an epilogue, but I need more!)

Thank you Net Galley and the Publisher for a copy of this ARC. I greatly appreciate it!
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The Stars We Steal is the type of book that once you pick it up you can’t put it down. 

This Persuasion retelling set in space is a mix of romance, sci-fi and intrigue that I didn’t know I needed. I am a fan of regency romance and fantasy so this felt like the best of both worlds. Leo is being forced to find a suitable marriage partner while dealing the complications of a ranking systems she finds unfair and surviving with the limited resources of living in space. I loved Leo’s tenacity and was rooting for her the entire way. I’d recommend this book for romance fans who are looking for a refreshing twist.
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Thank you, HMH Teen, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I don't know you at all anymore. And I don't care to. —Leo

Do you like the idea of girls vying for the affections of a rich bachelor? This phenomenon was common during the patriarchal time of Jane Austen, but it's still relevant today. Otherwise, shows like The Bachelorette or books like The Selection wouldn't exist. I studied the latter series for my undergraduate thesis, so I was intrigued by the premise of bringing all of that drama to space. High five if you also love space operas!

The Stars We Steal features a world wherein Earth is no longer habitable. Because of an environmental disaster, people from every continent have evacuated to space. But instead of living on another planet, they stay on their respective spaceships and begin their lives anew. Americans call their vessel the Lady Liberty, while the British name theirs the Empire.

Leo Kolburg, the heroine, is a German princess and heir to an old European spaceship. She resides on the Scandinavian with her father and sister. The Kolburgs are almost bankrupt, and Leo takes on the burden to save their family from destitution. Sadly, marrying into a wealthy family might be her only option. When the matchmaking season starts, Leo is shocked when she discovers that one of her prospects is Eliot Wentworth, her ex-fiance. Worse, he wants to exact revenge on her.

At first, reading this book was a lot of fun. Although there were some cliches here and there, the story was generally entertaining. However, I strongly disliked Eliot to the point that I understood why Leo had dumped him in the first place. I didn't care that both of us would rather read a book than go swimming; his hot-and-then-cold demeanor always annoyed me. Naturally, my negative thoughts about him affected my opinion of Leo, who couldn't get over him in spite of all the better men around her. Leo was empowered enough to create a water filtration system for their spaceship, so why wasn't she strong enough to move on?

Nonetheless, Leo was aware of her flaws. She scolded herself for taking pleasure in her flirty sister's pain and pining over a vengeful (and very suspicious) boy. How could I be frustrated with someone who was already frustrated with herself? Haha. Still, it was amazing how Leo forgave Eliot for openly flirting with her cousin and sister out of spite. I'm not sure if girls in real life would be willing to do the same. Considering the popularity of feminism, probably not. Girls today usually hate fighting over boys because doing so encourages toxic masculinity.

The main antagonist was too selfish to be trounced. This, in turn, made the ending too convenient to be believable. I know that happy endings are products of wishful thinking, but they should at least be logical. How can such a cunning and relentless dictator end up in prison so quickly? Perhaps the book would be better if it had an open conclusion.

To be fair, this book had a fascinating setting. I loved that each ship was a like nation in itself. If you wanted to visit a particular vessel, you would have to get a visa first. Moreover, although the spaceships had different leaders and social classes, they had to rely on each other to survive. This resulted in much political tension, which I mostly enjoyed as a member of the middle class.

As a whole, The Stars We Steal was equally fun and stressful to read. You should read this book in February 2020 if you love Kiera Cass and Beth Revis. If some of its themes sound outdated, remember that it's a close retelling of Persuasion, a semi-historical novel. The author probably retained some tropes (e.g., mean boys and marriage-driven girls) because she wanted to be loyal to the source material.
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This was a pretty cool retelling of Persuasion in space. Combined with aspects of The Bachelor,  Sense and Sensibility and murder mystery among the stars,  The Stars We Steal was a fun and slightly predictable read. With the secret of her royal family facing genteel poverty, princes Leo is doing the best she can to guard that secret and find ways to support her family without having to marry for money as her family is pushing her to do. During the Valg, a match-making ceremony that assures royalty lineage, Leon finds herself face-to-face with the love of her life Elliot; a young man her family persuaded her to break off an engagement due to his status and lack of wealth. Secrets, family-duty, empowerment, personal desire are among a few issues that Leo struggles with throughout the book. She's a character one can relate to and root for. I'm happy to read other books by Alexa Donne.
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I really liked this book, I've been struggling to find a book that fits what I've been looking for and this did. It was a quick read and well written. The words flowed pleasantly and made for an enjoyable read. I needed something light, with a good plot and this provided that. I wouldn't compare it to the Bachelorette, the dating involved didn't quite feel similar to that. It more reminded me of coming out parties and debutante balls. The space concept and execution was unique, providing a detailed setting to understand and enjoy. 
I will say, for all the things I enjoyed about this book, the plot was fairly predictable. Which in this case was a plus for me, I wanted something to lose myself in and not be terribly shocked about. This isn't usually the case for me with my plot preferences, but this book gave me what I didn't know I needed. 
I would recommend this for anyone in a slump or looking for a light young adult novel set in space.
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The Stars We Steal is an imaginative and exhilarating take on Jane Austen's Persuasion. Princess Leonie Kolburg, on the verge of destitution, bears the sole responsibility of saving her family from financial ruin and is tasked with finding herself a wealthy husband during Valg Season, a series of elaborate mating rituals intended to foster good breeding, therefore ensuring her family's continued social status and wealth. Unfortunately, Leo has no interest in marrying for anything other than love, if she must marry at all, and would rather find a way to save her family with her ingenious water filtration invention that will improve the quality of life for the entire fleet of ships, if anyone was willing to try it. Making everything more complicated is her former flame, Elliot Wentworth, having returned after making a name for himself and acquiring a fortune and title after she turned down his proposal when he was just the son of her family's valet. She now has to wrestle with her family's impending fall from grace, securing a husband, and making sure Elliot never finds out she never stopped loving him, all while trying to pitch her invention to investors so she can license it and make her own money to save her family. 

The Stars We Steal manages to heighten the tension in all the right places as you root for Leo's success, all the while holding your breath for what happens next. Leo's determination and pluck make for good reading and anyone who has felt the outside pressure of family and society will empathize with her plight. A smart, resourceful girl being reduced to her ability to lure a man when there's so much more she can do seems like it would be a tired theme, but Donne keeps it interesting when paralleled with vigilante rebel forces, an emerging black market, and humanity's best and worst forces coming into collision. At the heart of the story there is love, honor, and justice and no one gets tired of that. It also features a stellar cast of side characters including a frustrated lesbian and a charming asexual flirt who are both just delightful. Set in space in a post apocalyptic scenario where what's left of the human race is trying to survive and rebuilt itself, it speaks of the dangers of greed and wealth, and how history has a terrible way of repeating itself, and how just a few people speaking out and working toward something better can absolutely make a difference. Fans of Austen and Star Wars will enjoy this space-infused romance full of desperate schemes, high tech speed dating, and girls kicking ass in various forms.
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The cover art and description made this book sound right up my alley.  I wasn’t expecting this to be a complete favorite, but thought it would be a nice read.  It had fine moments throughout, but the last fourth of the book was so poorly done.  The beginning and middle had build ups and enough drama to be ok, but the last part of the book was so bad.  Trying to be spoiler free here, but it was so poorly done and ridiculous, it was like the author was like oh well here’s the last part of the book let’s just jam all of these things in just to wrap it up.  
I’ve put some time in, and not only did I hate the main characters who you tried to grow with in the book, but they were rude and made poor decisions, yet everything “works” out because you caused enough drama?  None of it was fine, but the last fourth of the book was abysmal.  The main characters didn’t grow, didn’t learn from anything, were selfish and self-centered the whole time.  Wouldn’t recommend anywhere.  Wanted to like this book, but the poor writing and the lack of character growth made that difficult.
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**Review will be posted on my blog on January 21, 2020**

**3.5 stars**

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for giving me chance to read this eARC.

I did not realize this was a retelling of Persuasion, by Jane Austen, until almost the end.  🙆🏻‍♀️ I felt like it was familiar but for some reason didn’t put two and two together.

Princess Leonie, or Leo, is nineteen years old and single but she is about to take part in the Valg, which is an event that takes place every five years to bring together other young singles looking to make a power match marriage. Basically it helps them avoid marrying their cousins.  👀 At the end of the event, couples will announce their engagement. If Leo could avoid it she would but her family needs her to marry for money in order for them to survive because though they have royal titles, the money is basically gone.

And all of this happens in space! Yes, humans are now living on space ships which made this book even more intriguing to me. But just like Persuasion, someone from Leo’s past named Elliot, comes back and participates in the Valg as well. Can Leo bear to see Elliot marry someone else? Will she have to marry for money or can she make money for her family in another way? With space as the backdrop, there are balls, speed dating, gorgeous dresses, lots of drinking and dancing and of course, romance drama. The past comes back to haunt Leo and her future looks dire.

What I liked:

*I love Jane Austen so the second chance romance between Leo and Elliot is great. Leo and Elliot was secretly engaged in the past but her family nixed it because he was too poor. He comes back rich and now her family and everyone else thinks he’s a catch. The attraction between Leo and Elliot builds again and I was just waiting for them to find their way back to one another!

*Outside of the romance story is the tones of political intrigue. Princess Leonie’s aunt captains the Scandinavian, like it’s name, many of the residents there are Scandinavian or European descent. Learning about the different ships in space and the captains of the ships was interesting. We get a sense there is divide between the royals and the common people, who are starving on some of the other ships.

*Leo and Elliot are both trying to help their people in different ways. Though Leo is “royalty”, because her family has no money she feels pressured to do everything to help her family get money, even if it means marrying someone she doesn’t love. Elliot is helping people on a bigger scale, though in an illegal way. He’s like Robin Hood but his scheme could endanger many people around him. I like them as characters, it definitely felt very “Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth” from Persuasion. Except Leo has more back bone than Anne Elliot I think.

*One of my favorite characters in the book was Evgenia who was Elliot’s friend and was brimming with life. She was the life of the party! And they partied a lot in this book.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm:

~Just because the setting is in space, there is not much sci-fi in this book unless you count the scene where they do a space walk. So if you want a sci-fi book you will be disappointed.

~The political intrigue part of the story felt weak. I felt there was no urgency – there was a protest and secrets Elliot was keeping but the issue of people with discontent and starving wasn’t resolved in the end. The love story between Elliot and Leo was fixed, yay, but the larger issues at hand? Not much – so will there be a sequel? The ending was rushed.

~Some things about the world building made me pause. For example, this is set in the future, 170 years from now and they still have issues with gay relationships? Evangie had trouble finding a girl to meet on the Scandinavian. Were they just super conservative? I wanted more of the history of the ships and how people came to be on them.

Final Thoughts:
This book has more romance than sci-fi. I adored that it was a Persuasion retelling and I definitely felt it with Leo and Elliot’s storyline but I think on the other spectrum, there wasn’t much urgency about the state of the people living in space though it’s mentioned there is a lot of trouble brewing. I wanted more of that. Maybe there will be sequel?

Overall, I think it’s still an enjoyable story and having it set in space was very interesting.
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Alexa Donne is the queen of taking a contemporary concept that may or may not be done to death and putting it in space, making it new and exciting all over again. The Stars We Steal is no exception to this rule. Very "The Bachelor" in space, this novel kept me enthralled from page one till the very end. Highly recommend.
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This book had me at ‘for fans of Kiera Cass and Katharine McGee’, and I quite enjoyed it. If The Bachelor was limited to royals and the wealthy living in space because Earth is uninhabitable, you’d have The Stars We Steal. It was the ideal book for my overwhelmed brain - light, easy to keep up with, and predictable in a very comforting way. Think of this as a book equivalent to a pint of ice cream, a gravity blanket, and an old Amanda Bynes movie. It’s not as good as The Selection series or any of Katharine McGee’s books, but it’s perfect for when you want to read something new but don’t have the energy to get overwhelmingly invested.
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Leo is the oldest daughter of her father who is the king of his ship, literally. She's a princess with no money and her father needs to her find a wealthy husband so that the king can keep up appearances and keep up his luxuries.

The only way they have gotten by so far is on the generosity of Leo's aunt who has let them stay docked on her ship and waived the normal fees. But now Leo must step up. It's either find money or find a husband with money.

Leo has her own plans that will keep her family solvent and keep her out of a marriage of convenience, but selling people on a water filtration system that includes the sewage isn't easy.

Things get more tense and complicated when Leo's former fiancee (of all of 12 hours) comes back into her life three years after leaving. He's got everything she needs and some of what she still wants.

Can they come together when everyone tried so hard before to keep them apart?

Final thoughts: This starts off as a Persuasion rewrite with some Bachelor additions. Even the rose on the cover is meant to evoke The Bachelor (the author makes sure to state that in the course of the book to make sure that we know). The problem is that it starts off far too close to Austen's Persuasion at the start and then goes way off-kilter. Suddenly there is crime, extortion, danger, elections, and more. I do not understand Leo's final choice at the end because it matches Persuasion, but doesn't match what she was saying halfway through the book. She's an inconsistent character. While the space setting is interesting, it also distracts from the story, especially when things seem to be brought in just for a moment for the story and then left behind. Finally, my last issue is that this feels like Donne is leaving just enough space for a sequel as a just-in-case-this-does-well option. While the story is technically complete, it feels unfinished and incomplete. 

Rating: 2.5/5

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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I flew through this book in a few sittings, immediately intrigued by the premise and stakes (and that STUNNING cover), and it did not disappoint. The Stars We Steal will be a joy to read for fans of The Bachelorette and Persuasion alike, with a whip-smart heroin, gorgeous world-building, and a romance that's sure to steal hearts.

(And can we get a Daniel spin-off PLEASE?)

Thank you to HMH and Netgalley for the early review copy!
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