Use code DAD23 for 20% off + Free shipping on $45+ Shop Now!
These Broken Stars
A Starbound Novel
By Amie Kaufman
Formats and Prices
- Trade Paperback $10.99 $14.99 CAD
- ebook $1.99 $1.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 25, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Also available from:
“One of the most intense, thrilling, and achingly beautiful stories I’ve ever read.”–Marie Lu, New York Times best-selling author of the Legend trilogy
The first in the New York Times bestselling author duo Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s sweeping science fiction trilogy, These Broken Stars is a timeless love story about hope and survival in the face of unthinkable odds.
It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen are the only survivors.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms.
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.
NOTHING ABOUT THIS ROOM IS REAL. If this were a party at home, the music would draw your eye to human musicians in the corner. Candles and soft lamps would light the room, and the wooden tables would be made of actual trees. People would be listening to each other, instead of checking to see who’s watching them.
Even the air here smells filtered and fake. The candles in the sconces do flicker, but they’re powered by a steady source. Hover trays weave among the guests, like invisible waiters are carrying drinks. The string quartet is only a hologram—perfect and infallible, and exactly the same at every performance.
I’d give anything for a laid-back evening joking around with my platoon, instead of being stuck here in this imitation scene from a historical novel.
For all their trendy Victorian tricks, there’s no hiding where we are. Outside the viewports, the stars are like faded white lines, half-invisible, surreal. The Icarus, passing through dimensional hyperspace, would look just as faded, half-transparent, if someone stationary in the universe could somehow see her moving faster than light.
I’m leaning against the bookshelves when it occurs to me that one thing here is real—the books. I reach behind me and let my fingers trail over the rough leather of their antique spines, then pull one free. Nobody here reads them; the books are for decoration. Chosen for the richness of their leather bindings, not for the contents of their pages. Nobody will miss one, and I need a dose of reality.
I’m almost done for the night, smiling for the cameras as ordered. The brass keep thinking that mixing field officers with the upper crust will create some sort of common ground where none exists, let the paparazzi infesting the Icarus see me, the lowborn boy made good, hobnobbing with the elite. I keep thinking that the photographers will get their fill of shots of me with drink in hand, lounging in the first-class salon, but in the two weeks I’ve been on board, they haven’t.
These folks love a good rags-to-riches tale, even if my riches are no more than the medals pinned to my chest. It still makes for a nice story in the papers. The military look good, the rich people look good, and it gives the poor people something to aspire to. See? say all the headlines. You too can rocket your way up to riches and fame. If hick boy can make good, why can’t you?
If it wasn’t for what happened on Patron, I wouldn’t even be here. What they call heroics, I call a tragic debacle. But nobody’s asking my opinion.
I scan the room, taking in the clusters of women in brightly colored gowns, officers in dress uniforms like mine, men in evening coats and top hats. The ebb and flow of the crowd is unsettling—patterns I’ll never get used to no matter how many times I’m forced to rub elbows with these people.
My eyes fall on a man who’s just entered, and it takes me a moment to realize why. There’s nothing about him that fits here, although he’s trying to blend in. His black tailcoat is too threadbare, and his top hat is missing the shiny satin ribbon that’s in fashion. I’m trained to notice the thing that doesn’t fit, and in this sea of surgically perfected faces, his is a beacon. There are lines at the corners of his eyes and around his mouth, his skin weather-beaten and marked by the sun. He’s nervous, shoulders rounded, fingers gripping the lapels of his jacket and letting go again.
My heart kicks up a beat. I’ve spent too long in the colonies, where anything out of place might kill you. I ease away from the bookshelves and start to weave my way toward him, past a pair of women sporting monocles they can’t possibly need. I want to know why he’s here, but I’m forced to move slowly, navigating the push and pull of the crowd with agonizing patience. If I shove, I’ll draw attention. And if he is dangerous, any sudden shift in the energy of the room could trigger him.
A brilliant flash lights up the world as a camera goes off in my face.
“Oh, Major Merendsen!” It’s the leader of a gaggle of women in their mid-twenties, descending on me from the direction of the viewport. “Oh, you simply must take a picture with us.”
Their insincerity is poisonous. I’m barely more than a dog walking on its hind legs, here—they know it, and I know it, but they can’t pass up an opportunity to be seen with a real, live war hero.
“Sure, I’ll just come back in a minute, if—” Before I can finish, all three women are posed around me, lips pursed and lashes lowered. Smile for the cameras. A series of flashes erupt all around me, blinding me.
I can feel that low, stabbing pain at the base of my skull that promises to explode into a fully fledged headache. The women are still chattering and pressing in close, and I can’t see the man with the weathered face.
One of the photographers is buzzing around me, his voice a low drone. I step sideways to look past him, but my eyes are swimming with red and gold afterimages. Blinking hard, my gaze swings from the bar, to the door, the hover trays, the booths. I try to remember what he looked like, the line of his clothes. Was there room to hide anything under his dinner jacket? Could he be armed?
“Major, did you hear me?” The photographer’s still talking.
“Yes?” No, I wasn’t listening. I disentangle myself from the women still draped over me on the pretense of stepping closer to speak with him. I wish I could shove past this little man, or better yet, tell him there’s a threat and watch how fast he vanishes from the room.
“I said I’m surprised your buddies on the lower decks aren’t trying to sneak up here too.”
Seriously? The other soldiers watch me head to first class every evening like a man walking down death row. “Oh, you know.” I try not to sound as annoyed as I am. “I doubt they even know what champagne is.” I try for a smile too, but they’re the ones good at insincerity, not me.
He laughs too loudly as the flash explodes in my face again. Blinking away the stars, I stumble clear and crane my neck, trying to locate the only guy in the room more out of place than I am. But the stooped man in the shabby hat is nowhere to be found.
Maybe he left? But someone doesn’t go to the trouble of crashing a party like this and then slip out without a fuss. Maybe he’s seated now, hiding among the other guests. My eyes sweep across the booths again, this time examining the patrons more closely.
They’re all packed full of people. All except one. My gaze falls on a girl sitting alone in a booth, watching the crowd with detached interest. Her fair, flawless skin says she’s one of them, but her gaze says she’s better, above, untouchable.
She’s wearing the same hue as a navy dress uniform, bare shoulders holding my gaze for a moment—she sure as hell wears the color better than any sailor I know. Hair: red, falling down past her shoulders. Nose: a little snub, but that makes her more pretty, not less. It makes her real.
Pretty’s not the right word. She’s a knockout.
Something about the girl’s face tickles at the back of my mind, like I should recognize it, but before I can dig up the connection, she catches me looking at her. I know better than to mix with girls like her, so I don’t know why I keep watching her, or why I smile.
Then, abruptly, a movement jerks my gaze away. It’s the nervous man, and he’s no longer meandering in and out of the crowd. His stooped posture is gone, and with his eyes fixed on something across the room he’s moving quickly through the press of bodies. He’s got a goal—and it’s the girl in the blue dress.
I waste no time weaving in and out of the crowd politely. I shove between a pair of startled elderly gentlemen and make for the booth, but the outsider’s gotten there first. He’s leaning close, speaking low and fast. He’s moving too quickly, trying to spit out what he came to say before he’s picked out as an intruder. The girl jerks back, leaning away. Then the crowd closes up between us, and they’re out of sight.
I reach down to lay a hand on my gun, and hiss between my teeth as I realize it’s not there. The empty spot at my hip feels like a missing limb. I weave left, upsetting a hover tray and sending its contents crashing to the floor. The crowd recoils, finally giving me an avenue toward the table.
The intruder has grabbed her elbow, urgent. She’s trying to pull away, eyes flashing up, looking around for someone as though she expects help. Her gaze falls on me.
I get one step closer before a man in the right sort of top hat claps a hand on the stranger’s shoulder. He has an equally self-important friend with him, and two officers, a man and a woman. They know the man with the fervent light in his eyes doesn’t belong here, and I can see they mean to remedy his presence.
The redhead’s self-appointed guardian jerks the man backward to stumble against the officers, who take him firmly by the arms. I can tell he’s got no training, either formally or the rough-and-tumble sort they learn in the colonies. If he did, he’d be able to handle these desk jockeys and their sloppy form.
They start to turn him toward the door, one of them grabbing at the nape of his neck. More force than I would use, for someone whose only crime so far seems to be trying to talk to the girl in the blue dress, but they’re handling it. I stop by the adjacent booth, still trying to catch my breath.
The man twists, breaking free of the soldiers, and turns back toward the girl. As the room starts to fall silent, the ragged edge to his voice is audible. “You have to speak to your father about this, please. We’re dying for lack of tech, he needs to give the colonists more—”
His voice gives out as one of the officers delivers a blow to his stomach that doubles him over. I jerk forward, shoving away from the booth and past the widening ring of onlookers.
The redhead beats me to it. She’s on her feet in a swift movement that draws the attention of everyone in the room in a way the scuffle didn’t. Whoever she is, she’s a showstopper.
“Enough!” She has a voice well suited to delivering ultimatums. “Captain, Lieutenant, what do you think you’re doing?”
I knew I liked her for a reason.
When I step forward, she’s holding them frozen in place with a glare that could fell a platoon. For a moment, none of them notice me. Then I see the soldiers register my presence, and scan my shoulders for my stars and bars. Rank aside, we’re different in every way. My medals are for combat, theirs for long service, bureaucratic efficiencies. My promotions were made in the field. Theirs, behind a desk. They’ve never had blood on their hands. But for once, I’m glad of my newfound status. The two soldiers come reluctantly to attention—both of them are older, and I can tell it rankles to have to salute an eighteen-year-old. Funny how I was old enough by sixteen to drink, fight, and vote, but even two years later, I’m too young to respect.
They’re still holding on to the gate-crasher. He’s breathing quick and shallow, like he’s pretty sure someone’s going to fire him out an air lock any minute.
I clear my throat, making sure I sound calm. “If there’s a problem, I can help this man find the door.” Without more violence.
We can all hear how my voice sounds—exactly like the backwater boy I am, unpolished and uncultured. I register a few scattered laughs around the room, which is now entirely focused on our little drama. Not malicious laughter—just amused.
“Merendsen, I doubt this guy’s after a book.” Fancy Top Hat smirks at me.
I look down and realize I’m still holding the book I took from the shelves. Right, because this guy is poor, he can’t even read.
“I’m sure he was just about to go,” says the girl, fixing Top Hat with a steely glare. “And I’m pretty sure you were about to leave, too.”
They’re caught off guard by her dismissal, and I use the moment to relieve my fellow officers of their captive, keeping hold of his arm as I guide him away. She’s effectively dismissed the quartet from the salon—again her face tickles my memory, who is she that she can do that?—and I let them make their enforced escape before I gently but firmly steer my new friend toward the door.
“Anything broken?” I ask, once we’re outside. “What possessed you to go near them, and in a place like this? I half thought you were aiming to blow someone up.”
The man gazes at me for a long moment, his face already older than the people inside will ever look.
He turns to walk away without another word, shoulders bowed. I wonder just how much he had riding on this manufactured encounter with the girl in the blue dress.
I stand in the doorway, watching as people give up on the drama now that it’s done. The room slowly comes back to life, the hover trays zipping around, conversation surging, perfectly practiced laughter tinkling here and there. I’m supposed to be here at least another hour, but maybe just this once I can skip out early.
And then I see the girl again—and she’s watching me. Very slowly she’s taking off one of her gloves, pinching each finger deliberately in turn. Her gaze never leaves my face.
My heart surges up into my throat, and I know I’m staring like an idiot, but I’m damned if I can remember how my legs work. I stare a beat too long, and her lips curve to a hint of a smile. But somehow, her smile doesn’t look as though it’s mocking me, and I get it together enough to start walking.
When she lets her glove fall to the ground, I’m the one who leans down to pick it up.
I don’t want to ask her if she’s all right—she’s too collected for that. So I put the glove down on the table, then find myself with no excuse to do anything other than look at her. Blue eyes. They go with the dress. Do lashes grow that long naturally? So many perfect faces, it’s hard to tell who’s been surgically altered and who hasn’t. But surely if she’d had work done, she’d have opted for a straight, classically beautiful nose. No, she looks real.
“Are you waiting for a drink?” My voice sounds mostly even.
“For my companions,” she says, lowering the deadly lashes before peering up at me through them. “Captain?” She tilts the word upward, as though she’s taking a stab at my rank.
“Major,” I say. She knows how to read my insignia; I just saw her name the ranks of the other officers. Her sort, the society girls, they all know how. It’s a game. I might not be society, but I still know a player when I see one. “Not sure that was smart of your companions, leaving you unattended. Now you’re stuck talking to me.”
Then she smiles, and it turns out she has dimples, and it’s all over. It’s not just the way she looks—although that would do it all on its own. It’s that, despite the way she looks, despite where I found her, this girl’s willing to go against the tide. She’s not another empty-headed puppet. It’s like finding another human after days of isolation.
“Is it going to cause an intergalactic incident if I keep you company until your friends get here?”
“Not at all.” She tilts her head a little to indicate the opposite side of the booth. The bench curves around in a semicircle from where she sits. “Though I feel I should warn you that you could be here for a while. My friends aren’t really known for their punctuality.”
I laugh, and I set down the book and my drink on the table beside her glove, sinking down to sit opposite her. She’s wearing one of those enormous skirts that are in fashion these days, and the fabric brushes against my legs as I settle. She doesn’t move away. “You should have seen me as a cadet,” I say, as though that wasn’t just a year ago. “Punctuality was pretty much the only thing we were known for. Never ask how or why, just get it done fast.”
“Then we have something in common,” she says. “We aren’t encouraged to ask why, either.” Neither of us asks why we’re sitting together. We’re smart.
“I can see at least half a dozen guys watching us. Am I making any deadly enemies? Or at least, any more than I already have?”
“Would it stop you from sitting here?” she asks, finally removing the second glove and setting it down on the table.
“Not necessarily,” I reply. “Handy thing to know, though. Plenty of dark hallways on this ship, if I’m going to have rivals waiting around corners.”
“Rivals?” she asks, lifting one brow. I know she’s playing a game with me, but I don’t know the rules, and she’s got all the cards. Still, the hell with it—I just can’t find it in me to care that I’m losing. I’ll surrender right now, if she likes.
“I suppose they might imagine themselves to be,” I say eventually. “Those gentlemen over there don’t look particularly impressed.” I nod to the group in frock coats and more top hats. At home we’re a simpler people, and you take your hat off when you come inside.
“Let’s make it worse,” she says promptly. “Read to me from your book, and I’ll look rapt. And you could order me a drink, if you like.”
I glance down at the book I plucked off the shelf. Mass Casualty: A History of Failed Campaigns. I slide it a little farther away, wincing inwardly. “Perhaps the drink. I’ve been away from your bright lights for a while, so I’m a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure talking about bloody death’s not the best way to charm a girl.”
“I’ll have to content myself with champagne, then.” She continues, as I raise a hand to signal one of the hover trays. “You say ‘bright lights’ with a hint of disdain, Major. I’m from those bright lights. Do you fault me for that?”
“I could fault you for nothing.” The words somehow bypass my brain entirely. Mutiny.
She drops her eyes for the compliment, still smiling. “You say you’ve been away from civilization, Major, but your flattery’s giving you away. It can’t have been all that long.”
“We’re very civilized out on the frontier,” I say, pretending offense. “Every so often we take a break from slogging through waist-high muck or dodging bullets and issue dance invitations. My old drill sergeant used to say that nothing teaches you the quickstep like the ground giving way beneath your feet.”
“I suppose so,” she agrees as a full tray comes humming toward us in response to my summons. She selects a glass of champagne and raises it in half a toast to me before she sips. “Can you tell me your name, or is it classified?” she asks, as though she doesn’t know.
I reach for the other glass and send the tray humming off into the crowd again. “Merendsen.” Even if it’s a pretense, it’s nice to talk to someone who isn’t raving about my astounding heroics or asking for a picture with me. “Tarver Merendsen.” She’s looking at me like she doesn’t recognize me from all the newspapers and holovids.
“Major Merendsen.” She tries it out, leaning on the m’s, then nods her approval. The name passes muster, at least for now.
“I’m heading back to the bright lights for my next posting. Which one of them is your home?”
“Corinth, of course,” she replies. The brightest light of all. Of course. “Though I spend more time on ships like this than planetside. I’m most at home here on the Icarus.”
“Even you must be impressed by the Icarus. She’s bigger than any city I’ve been to.”
“She’s the biggest,” my companion replies, dropping her eyes and toying with the stem of the champagne flute. Though she hides it well, there’s a flicker through her features. Talking about the ship must bore her. Maybe it’s the spaceliner equivalent of asking about the weather.
C’mon, man, get it together. I clear my throat. “The viewing decks are the best I’ve seen. I’m used to planets with very little ambient light, but the view out here is something else.”
She meets my eyes for half a breath—then her lips quirk to the tiniest of smiles. “I don’t think I’ve taken advantage of them enough, this trip. Perhaps we—” But then she cuts herself short, glancing toward the door.
I’d forgotten we were in a crowded room. But the moment she looks away, all the music and conversation comes surging back. There’s a girl with reddish-blond hair—a relative, I’m sure, though her nose is straight and perfect—descending upon my companion, a small entourage in tow.
“Lil, there you are,” she says, scolding, and holding out her hand in a clear invitation. No surprise, I’m not included. The entourage swirls into place behind her.
“Anna,” says my companion, who now has a name. Lil. “May I present Major Merendsen?”
“Charmed.” Anna’s voice is dismissive, and I reach for my book and my drink. I know my cue.
“Please, I think I’m in your chair,” I say. “It was a pleasure.”
“Yes.” Lil ignores Anna’s hand, her fingers curling around the stem of her champagne glass as she looks across at me. I like to think that she regrets the interruption a little.
Then I rise, and with a small bow of the sort we reserve for civilians, I make my escape. The girl in the blue dress watches me go.
“You next encountered her…?”
“The day of the accident.”
“What were your intentions at that stage?”
“I had none.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“Major, we aren’t here to entertain you.”
“I found out who she was. That it was over before I even said hello.”
“DO YOU KNOW WHO THAT WAS?” Anna tilts her head toward the major as he slips out of the salon.
“Mmm.” I try to sound noncommittal. Of course I know—the guy’s picture was plastered across every holoscreen for weeks. Major Tarver Merendsen, war hero. His pictures don’t do him justice. He looks younger in person, for one. But mostly, in his pictures, he’s always stern, frowning.
Anna’s escort of the evening, a tuxedo-clad younger man, asks us what we’d like to drink. I never bother to remember the names of Anna’s dates. Half the time she doesn’t even introduce them before handing them her fan and clutch and skittering off to dance with someone else. As he heads to the bar with Elana, Swann follows them, after a long, level look at me.
I know I’ll catch hell later for slipping my bodyguard and getting here early, but it was worth it. You have to know to look for it, nearly invisible in the lines of Swann’s skirt, but there’s a knife at one thigh and a tiny pistol set to stun in her clutch. There are jokes about how the LaRoux princess never goes anywhere without her entourage of giggling companions—that half of them could kill a man at a hundred yards is not exactly public knowledge. The President’s family doesn’t have protection like mine.
I ought to tell them about the man who accosted me, but if I do, Swann will usher me out of the salon, and I’ll spend the rest of the evening locked in my room while she verifies the man in the cheap hat didn’t intend to harm me. I could tell he wasn’t dangerous, though. It’s hardly the first time somebody’s wanted me to intervene with my father. All his colonies want more than he can give, and it’s no secret that the most powerful man in the galaxy dotes on his daughter’s every whim.
But there’d be no point to Swann hiding me away. I recognized the particular slump of the man’s shoulders as the major guided him out. He won’t try again.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Lil.” I look up, startled. She’s still talking about Major Merendsen.
“Just a bit of fun.” I toss back the last mouthful of champagne in a way that makes Anna crack a smile in spite of herself.
She erases her smile with an effort, summoning a scowl far more suited to Swann’s face than hers. “Uncle Roderick would be cross,” she scolds, sliding into the booth next to me and forcing me to move over. “Who cares how many medals the major managed to wrangle in the field? He’s still just a teacher’s son.”
For a girl who spends more nights in someone else’s room than her own, Anna is a prude when it comes to me. I can’t help but wonder what my father has promised her in exchange for keeping an eye on me on this trip—or what he’s threatened her with should she fail.
I know she’s only trying to protect me. Better her than one of my bodyguards, with no reason to cushion the truth when reporting to my father. Anna is one of the only people who knows what Monsieur LaRoux is capable of, when it comes to me. She’s seen what happens to men who look at me the wrong way. There are rumors, of course. Most guys are smart enough to steer clear, but only Anna knows. For all her lectures, I’m glad she’s here with me.
Still, something in me won’t let it go. “One conversation,” I murmur. “That’s all, Anna. Do we have to go through this every time?”
Anna leans in so she can slip her arm through mine and put her head on my shoulder. When we were young, this was my gesture—but we’ve grown, and I’m taller than her now. “I’m only trying to help,” she says. “You know what Uncle Roderick is like. You’re all he has. Is it such a terrible thing that your father’s devoted to you?”
I sigh, leaning my head to the side to rest it on hers. “If I can’t play a little when I’m away from him, then what’s the use in traveling on my own?”
“Major Merendsen was rather delicious,” Anna admits in a low voice. “Did you see how well he filled out that uniform? He’s not for you, but maybe I should look up his cabin number.”
My stomach gives an odd little lurch. Jealousy? Surely not. The movement of the ship, then. And yet, faster-than-light travel is so smooth it’s like standing still.
Anna lifts her head, looks at my face, and laughs, the sound a delightful, well-practiced tinkle of silver. “Oh, don’t scowl, Lil. I was only joking. Just don’t see him again, or you know I’ll have to tell your father. I don’t want to, but I can’t not do it.”
"Absolutely brilliant. This is the sci fi I've been waiting for! Action, romance, twists and turns--this book has it all!" —Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of Across the Universe
"With rich, complex characters and a dynamic--and dangerous--new world, These Broken Stars completely transported me."—Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate series
"One of the most intense, thrilling, and achingly beautiful stories I've ever read. Kaufman and Spooner will break your heart with skilled aplomb, and you'll thank them for it. Absolutely incredible! If I have to, I will come to your house and shove this book into your hands!"
—Marie Lu, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Legend Trilogy
*"Lilac and Tarver are characters of depth, complexity, and strength, young people who alternately elicit the reader's admiration, frustration, and sympathy ... a testament to love, loyalty, courage, and the power of good over dystopian greed and perversity."—Booklist, starred review
"The authors begin with star-crossed lovers and a crash-landing survival story but add excitingly original material to these tropes to create a wonderful tale that should appeal to both teen and adult readers."—School Library Journal
"Kaufman and Spooner's debut collaboration is a stunning, gorgeously imagined romance with epic sweep, brimming with lush detail of setting and intricate character study. It's the kind of read to savor, but the survivalist plotting still rushes the reader to keep turning pages."
—Ingram Library Group
"With well-developed characters and an excellent narration style, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner have crafted an insightful, shrewd and genuinely moving exploration of life, humanity and the moral obligations neglected in the name of progress. These Broken Stars is a romantic and heartbreaking tale that is complete in its own right while still leaving readers excited for future installments. Intense, emotional and compelling, it will appeal to readers (aged 12 and up) who like their sci-fi thoughtful and challenging--and just a little bit sexy."—Books+Publishing
- On Sale
- Nov 25, 2014
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers