By Braxton A. Cosby
I have received this arc copy in exchange for an honest review.
Prince William of the Torrian Alliance lands on Earth on a mission to assassinate the Star-Child, Sydney, only to fall in love with her instead.
In terms of structure, PROTOSTAR is well-paced with a clear and engaging plot. The prologue opens with a punch and each chapter brings more intrigue.
There’s a shocking twist towards the end that I think fans of the mystery genre will appreciate.
Overall, there are some really engaging scenes with stella characterisation. Henry, Sydney’s father figure and the chief of police, is particularly well-drawn. He is flawed, sarcastic and funny. With him we discover clues about this alien colony that has made contact with Earth.
There are also some nice touches. For example, we are told that Isaac Newton’s ground-breaking theories actually come from Aliens. Quite a funny idea worthy of Doctor Who.
However I do have some issues with the character Sydney. At times her dialogue feels forced and so does her characterisation. Her references to a “Mr Right” and a “Prince Charming” are not realistic. Having recently been a teenage girl among many other teenage girls, I’ve never once talked about or met anyone else who has talked about meeting “Mr Right”, Mr Perfect” or even “Mr Imperfect”.
There are also certain descriptions of Sydney that I find problematic. Below are some examples:
Small explosion of hysteria.
Panicking as she watched her grandmother struggle with the news.
Why is this problematic? Women in history have often been described as hysterical. And the men in this book seem to be able to handle the events much better.
Such are the examples below of the men being seen as the protectors and the women depending on them:
She was nervous but felt safe being with Henry. – Jasmine about Henry.
The only ounce of strength he had left came from knowing Sydney was safe by his side. Protecting her from now on was his new priority. – William
Sydney and boys:
The usual topics of conversation about cute boys, pretty girls and boring homework would have to wait.
“You know how we girls are… He’s no one in particular. Just that certain someone who comes in your life, sweeps you off your feet, and takes you to a whole new level of liking – another world.” – Sydney
She stared at the hand William had kissed. Could this guy really be my Prince Charming?
She nodded as her eyes locked on Earth. “Funny how neither space, distance, or time was sufficient to hinder the power of love. William, tell me more about Star-crossing.”
Why is this problematic? Sydney’s focus on finding “Mr Right” and “love” takes away from her personality and therefore leaves her very 2D because all we know about her is that she loves her grandma and this mystery man in her head.
Sydney as perfect:
“Well, if I could have anything in the world, I’d like to see my parents”… “But that’s something that can’t be done by anyone on this side of heaven.”
Eyes batted innocently.
Sydney caressed Sarah’s shoulders.
“Oh please do… if you don’t mind.” – Sydney at breakfast.
“I remember that one time you made up that story of stars being parents to lonely kids and that you had a dream one day they would take all the lonely children away to a far-off land to play together.” – Grandma Sarah to Sydney
Why is this problematic? I’m yet to come across a woman, especially a seventeen-year-old girl, who has the mannerisms and speech of Sydney. It’s like she’s reading from a book of how to be a perfect Victorian woman, and yet this is the 21st century, supposedly.
I think the closest we get to Sydney being Sydney is this line her grandma Sarah says to William.
“She’s always making crazy jokes. You know how these young girls are these days.”
However, once it’s established that Sydney is indeed very mature for her age, we get this scene on page 174 where William and she are walking through a forest and Sydney suddenly balances on a wall because she’s bored. Naturally she falls so William can save her.
Usually, having a character do something as silly as balancing on a wall is to show their youth and immaturity – think Dorothy from Wizard of Oz and Louisa Musgrove from Persuasion. Sydney, however, isn’t immature so this action doesn’t appear to be consistent.
Putting criticism aside, I thought the motif of warmth and redemption a breath of fresh air in the YA genre. It’s a message that is relevant to today where there is so much intolerance and lack of forgiveness.
For example, Sydney’s reaction to William’s apology after he had unwittingly betrayed her to the Torrian Alliance:
“Sydney, is there any way you could forgive me for what I’ve done?”
She caressed his face. “What’s done is done. Even though all the pain, something inside me knew that you would save me.”
I found it a powerful and a positive message to send to teens. I also liked that the story ended on a cliff-hanger that made you want to buy the next book.
Overall, I found ProtoStar a well-written YA novel about young love in the face of adversity. I hope in the next book, we see Sydney being more proactive.