Desert Isle Keeper
Hunt the Stars
I gave a DIK to the first book in Jessie Mihalik’s Starlight’s Shadow series, Hunt the Stars, when it came out earlier this year. This sequel, Eclipse the Moon, has not let me down.
Kee Ildez, the human hacker of Starlight’s crew, has an unrequited crush on Varro Runkow, a Valoff who works for General Torran Fletcher (the hero of the previous book, who is now in a relationship with Kee’s captain Tavi Zarola). At least, Kee thinks it’s unrequited. When she decides to leave the ship and spend some time on the space station Bastion, it’s as much to put some distance between herself and Varro as it is to hunt for data related to the villain of Hunt the Stars To Kee’s surprise (and good fortune) Varro turns up – and isn’t perhaps as indifferent as she presumed. (Oh, and don’t worry; a Big Mis based around ‘He doesn’t like me’ is avoided by a spectacularly satisfying direct confession from Kee. I LOVE IT WHEN CHARACTERS TALK HONESTLY!).
Maybe it’s the author’s computer science credentials, but for once, a hacker character reads like an actual hacker with Kee spending hours trying to gain access to networks. Different things are possible when she has a physical, spliced-in computer link and wireless access. She gets a hotel room via a script that searches for a room that meets her requirements every ninety seconds. Many of her conclusions come from analysis of enormous piles of data – for instance, looking for patterns within ship docking and wormhole transit records. I loved the realism within the sci-fi here.
Kee’s skill with a computer makes her valuable to the crew, but she’s insecure about her physical weakness. She knows she only survived the human-Valoff war because her crewmates kept her safe, and it makes her feel like she doesn’t contribute equally. I liked her working through this and finding confidence, particularly by demonstrating mental toughness over physical strength. However, she’s called upon to perform physical tasks several times in the book, and to me it felt contrived in service of putting her together with Varro in bodyguard mode. Realistically, a captain like Tavi and a general like Torran would have allocated those tasks to different crew members.
Kee also reads as if she has ADHD. She falls into hyperfixation mode while in a data project and loses touch with her body’s needs like hunger (a lack of interoception is a hallmark ADHD trait), and at one point she makes herself read something multiple times in the hopes that it will convince her brain to remember it. I’ve seen more and more neuroatypical protagonists, but not specifically ones with ADHD, and I appreciated seeing it and how it’s handled here.
Varro is less personally engaging. He’s a strong, silent bodyguard type, and the author has a bit of a fumble with the classic sequel problem of ‘I made the hero the strongest ever in the last book, so what do I do with this hero in this book?’ He’s fine, but not as distinctive and engaging as Kee.
I adored Hunt the Stars, and I’m deeply grateful that Eclipse the Moon was another engaging, unputdownable read. The Starlight’s Shadow series continues to be strong, and I can’t wait for more.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.