I'd been eking out the moments until I read This Shattered World, even though I wanted to devour it in the wake of These Broken Stars, which I read in March. Coming off These Broken Stars, I was absolutely in love with Tarver and Lilac and their universe--because world is too small a world when it comes to settings like these--and TBS was just so good that I had to force myself to wait to read the next one. See, when a series isn't completely published yet (and the conclusion to this one won't be out until December) I try to space out the extant books so that I can get a hit every now and then, instead of bingeing and then suffering until the next one comes out. But with Their Fractured Light looming on the horizon, I decided it was time to read This Shattered World.
And I was disappointed. Kaufman and Spooner wrote such a vivid world and such a breathtaking, heart-wrenching romance in These Broken Stars that I came to This Shattered World eager for the same. I didn't get it. I understand, in a way; I mean, not all of your stories can be the same, or else you're just writing the same thing over and over again. But even if the plot was different and the characters were different, coming from different directions with different motivations, I still expected there to be that spark, that connection that drew Tarver and Lilac together and made them so fascinating to follow even when they seemingly couldn't stand each others' guts. Instead, I got Jubilee the soldier and Flynn the rebel. They were interesting characters, with great stories and motivations, and watching them learn to work together for a common cause that wasn't actually so common was interesting, but it just didn't work for me as a romance--which was the main thing I was looking for in this book. Jubilee and Flynn are both so focused on their own ends that they only engage in thinking of relationships for brief periods of time. Granted, those brief periods are great--some very steamy kissing happens during one of them. But overall, they just came across as distant and awkward, and at the end of the book I remained unconvinced about them as a couple, especially when juxtaposed with how Tarver and Lilac were shown to be so strong together again in this one.
Jubilee was a strong character, and it was interesting to see a female character who's a total badass and a male who's a pacifist, when most fictions have those roles reversed. But overall I thought the plot and the setting were just...lacking. Again, this was in comparison to the first book. In the first book, the Icarus and the planet the characters ended up on was strange and beautiful and terrible in all sorts of ways. In comparison, Avon is just...meh. It's a swamp, with will o' the wisps that occasionally show up and ultimately play a part but aren't really explored fully enough to be an enticing element of the setting. The plot itself focuses on a shaky peace between the soldiers posted on Avon, who are subject to a killing madness called the Fury, and the natives of Avon, who want their planet to pass its inspections so they can have a voice but are constantly told it's "not ready" yet, and who have an ongoing revolt in response. Ultimately, I felt like the ending was on shaky ground at best. I didn't feel Jubilee and Flynn's actions would actually realistically result in a peace, no matter how uneasy, or that they would stop whatever fate was coming Avon's way from LaRoux industries. Let's face it: Avon is a backwater that it's unlikely anyone would care about. If we can't get people to care about crises a few thousand miles away on one planet, I find it unlikely that people light years away would care about a crisis on another. Maybe that's just the cynic in me, but I found Tarver and Lilac's use of small-scale blackmail a much more feasible ending than Jubilee and Flynn's declaration.
I'm still looking forward to reading Their Fractured Light, mostly because one of the main characters is Sophia, who was introduced in This Shattered World and was really one of the highlights of it. I want to see how her charm and harsh background intersect to bring the trilogy to its conclusion. But for this one...meh.
2.5 to 3 stars out of 5.