Under Different Stars by Amy A. Bartol
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Amy Bartol’s Under Different Stars (book 1 of the Kricket Series), I didn’t get excited over it as I have some other books, but I thought that the writing was pretty strong. I loved the premise of the story (it’s one I’ve thought about but never developed into anything serious), which is a girl living on Earth is visited by someone from another world and told that she’s a special person (in this case a priestess) in that other world. The story was fun and the romance was… decent, a little to flat for me. The characters certainly think they’re in love with each other, which is good; but I didn’t feel that the romance had any more substance other than physical attraction.

World Building

What I found most appealing about the novel was the depth of the world building that went into this story. When the protagonist, Kricket, was taken away from Earth to Ethar it was a completely new more futuristic Earth with new names and systems of measurement. Considering how the characters needed to get from point A to point B, I thought the author did a pretty decent job of explaining how the new world functioned. It’s always good to know if there are different customs and ways of saying things. None of the extensive information descriptions bothered be because I wanted to know about this new place that wasn’t Earth.

There were only 2 things that I found inconsistent about the world building:

  1. The idea that there was a longer day and stuff like that was very interesting for me, though I must admit that it irritated me when she said that the gravity on Ethar was less than on Earth and the reason that irritated me is that these men would not have been so imposing and strong on Earth if that were actually the case. They wouldn’t have the same muscle mass as Earthlings, they would have “less” muscle mass. Anyway, I may grudgingly accept that their bodies are not human and that’s why these people don’t just crumple due to Earth’s gravity, but that information wasn’t revealed until the end of the book. What’s up with that? And if that’s the case, how could she have any kind of physical without someone noticing that her heart is on the right side and not the left? Unfortunately that’s my science brain talking.
  2. The inconsistency of the speech patterns of the Etharians. For the most part the Etharians spoke rather formally, almost like we were plopped into a Jane Austin novel, but then an Etharians would use a more modern phrase like “own it.” It was jarring.

It was fun to hear all the new words for things in Ethar, it produced a feeling of difference. The visual descriptions were quite extensive and painted a real picture, which I enjoyed as well. I hope to see more of Ethar.

Character Development

What I liked best about Kricket is that she’s intelligent. Not only is she street smart, but she seems to know the right kinds of questions to ask and isn’t afraid to demand the information she wants from people; of course that comes off as confrontational most of the time, but that’s just the way it is sometimes. Her survival instincts sway her into thinking critically about situations she finds herself in. She has a spicy personality, which also makes her compelling. Kricket’s foster care background made her personality more believable for me as well. I believed that being pretty in a foster care situation would not have been a good thing, so this made me believe even more that maybe she didn’t care that others thinks she’s drop dead gorgeous.

There were only two things I found off about her development:

  1. There was an inconsistency with Kricket’s character regarding alcohol. Kricket makes a big deal about telling the reader about how she never wants to be in a bar or around drunk people for the rest of her life after she’s able to turn 18 and get a real job. But then there is no internal commentary about that feeling when she’s on Ethar and someone offers her an alcoholic beverage. It threw me for a loop that she never once wondered if these people get drunk or feel irritated that she may be subjected to drunk people on Ethar. That was my first thought and I felt that it was a missed opportunity and also made me wonder why so much time was spent on that at the beginning of the novel. Hmm…
  2. I found it irritating that Kricket kept talking tough at the beginning by saying stuff like “I’m going to hurt your” or “I’m going to kill you” but then she never actually does anything that gives me the impression that anyone should take her treats seriously (I’m not saying that she needs to be physically violent, but there has to be something in the girl’s internal dialogue that would indicate to me that she can actually back up her threats). But there were at least 2 instances in the second half of the book when I was like “finally Kricket’s actually showing the reader that she’s more than just talk.”

I think that Kricket’s independence really added to the story, not only did it make her a compelling character, but it caused her problems too. It was nice to see a character’s traits being used as a double edged sword.

Final Comments

The novel’s dialogue was fun to read/listen to; the people sounded real and most dialogue felt natural and progressed organically. I think this was the strongest aspect of the story. The dialogue is really what made the various character’s shine.

I am intrigued enough by the story that I’ll be reading or listening to the followup novels. I want to know what the history between the two male leads are and what is known about Kricket’s destiny. But I probably won’t pick it up immediately. There are some other books that have more pressing interest for me.

Overall, the book was fun. If you enjoy adventure, don’t mind a lot of info dump style world building, and enjoy the innocent romance of fleeting glances and rushing blood. Then you’ll enjoy Under Different Stars.

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