I would definitely describe Chani Lynn Feener’s Amid Stars and Darkness as a fun read. I wasn’t super invested in any of the characters, but they were all likable/interesting enough, and the plot moves along at a good clip.
Before we go any further, let me add the disclaimer that I received this book free from FierceReads through a Goodreads giveaway.
Okay, now onto the review.
Taking place in a universe where alien life is part of the norm on Earth, Delaney Grace is mistaken for the alien princess Lissa Olena, kidnapped, and taken to a foreign planet where she must now masquerade as the princess in order to uphold a shaky alliance/betrothal or else risk intergalactic war and the enslavement of the human race. No problem, right?
It’s not hard to root for Delaney; while she may not be a stand-out character, she is a believable one. She has moments when she’s nearly overwhelmed by the shock of what is happening to her, but she’s not one to go down without a fight, whether that means using sarcasm or her fists.
Complications arise as Delaney finds herself increasingly attracted to Olena’s bodyguard, Ruckus, and he to her. While there is plenty of action in the book, most of what happens in between is relationship-focused, so if that’s not your cup of tea, be warned. My only complaint with this pairing is that since Ruckus was presented as being very good at and dedicated to his job, I wish he’d have struggled with his attraction to Delaney a little more and been more concerned with hiding it since she is playing the part of his princess, even if they both know it’s a ruse.
The other major player in this story is Zane Trystan, the prince to whom Olena is betrothed. He is an intense guy, and while he is also a victim of circumstance, this does not excuse his behavior. He doesn’t want to marry Olena any more than she wants to marry him, and based on everyone’s description of her personality, I don’t blame him for copping an attitude, being rude, and generally behaving like a jerk. I do blame him for being physically violent and threatening, especially to the point of trying to kill her. As an antagonist, he’s a great character (and he might be the most complex character in the book) but I’m afraid the author is trying to set up a love triangle with him, Delaney, and Ruckus for the rest of the series, which means he’s going to have to have one heck of an arc for me to get on board with that.
Honestly, I don’t understand why other readers are already shipping Delaney and Trystan because to quote Trystan directly, “I mean it when I tell you I won’t let anyone else hurt you. The only person on this planet you have to fear, Olena, is me,” (pg. 230). There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, comforting or protective or sweet about someone who will defend you because he wants to reserve the sole right to terrify and kill you. Nothing.
As of the first book, Delaney’s attitude toward Trystan (i.e. she wants to get away from him) makes sense to me, but if that changes going forward without some reformation and regret on his part, I may be out.
Looking beyond the characters to the world-building, the author does a good job of shaping a planet that is similar enough to Earth that Delaney can believably fake a basic understanding of it, but still foreign enough to keep it challenging and dangerous. The aliens have only a few minor physical differences that separate them from humans, and there’s some advanced technology that helps skirt major obstacles like language barriers. The author does utilize titles, such as “Lissa” for princess and “Zane” for prince, to keep the audience grounded in the alien setting, which I thought was a nice touch.
All in all, it’s a fun read, and I definitely want to read the sequel, especially after that cliffhanger ending. My only reservation is about that potential love triangle…we’ll see how it plays out.