The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne
From Goodreads: Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?
But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.
First up, thanks so much to Titan for sending me a copy of this book to review, prior to the release. And happy book birthday to Alexa Donne haha. This book came to me in such a pretty package. It was bound in a silvery ribbon, and there were loads of tiny diamante gems in the bag with it.
I thought this was a very fun read. The plot was well-paced and there was always a lot going on and it hit all the right beats. It was always going to be an interesting read for me, because I’ve watched Alexa’s videos about writing on YouTube for quite a while now, so it’s strange to hold one of her books in my hand and see how well her advice translates into her own writing. And I remember specifically listening to her talking about story beats, so it was pleasant to see that she’d really nailed the conflict and stakes and the pace was just spot on.
The romance was also very exciting, and again you can sense when you read it that it’s been edited and revised and well constructed. There’s lots of interesting, edge of your seat moments. And I did squeal during that first kiss scene. It was so well written. However, I did find some of the drama surrounding the romance a touch too dramatic. This is a spoiler free review, so I won’t go into it much, but some of the things that Elliot did made me a touch uncomfortable. Not in a problematic way or anything, but I do wonder how Leo was so smitten with him when his behaviour sometimes edged from being a sarcastic funny love interest into a bit of a dickhead. A lot of the supporting characters also shifted a bit too much. In some ways, it was a good thing, since it meant the characters were complex. But on the other hand, it did mean that sometimes they felt a little out of character or just outright mean when they didn’t need to be. Leo’s family, in particular, seemed to flip-flop a lot. Again, I kind of appreciated that it was a good representation of sisterly love, in many ways. But I do think it could have been tightened up in a way that made sense. And a lot of the tension between Leo and her sister came from Leo keeping secrets, and that frustrated me a little bit.
Leo’s character was amazing. I loved everything about her. She came across as a really strong character, with a distinct voice, and I enjoyed that she managed to feel like an actual teenager to me, which is something I think YA struggles with a little sometimes. Her character flaws also made a lot of sense, and again they felt sincere without making her an unlikeable character, at least in my eyes.
The descriptions were also a pleasant surprise, and the dialogue was so easy and fun to read. The Stars We Steal is not a perfect book– the ending was a bit cliche, and I found that the romance often obscured the other plot elements. I didn’t mind this too much because I knew going into this that it was a romance novel, but it did feel like the other plot elements took a back seat a lot of the time, almost to the point where they didn’t feel important or I forgot about them for a bit. It’s not a big deal, and I think anyone who likes a lot of heady romance in their books will love this one, but I found it a bit frustrating every now and then, especially since it felt so intrinsic to Leo’s character. Furthermore, the world building didn’t really do much for me. There were touches of it here and there, but mostly it was kind of lacklustre in that regard. Again, I don’t think world building was ever going to be the main concern of this book, but since it is a sci-fi novel, I think it’s worth mentioning that there wasn’t enough of it for me, and there were some moments when I didn’t know much about what was going on because it. Like the whole renting out of the ship thing, and the way the noble families function. It could have used a bit more flavouring to make the dish extra tasty.
As I’ve already mentioned, I think the romance stuff is super fun, and I liked the whole Valg stuff. It did feel like The Bachelor, complete with all the funny and cheesy and embarrassing moments you would expect from that. It was cute and sweet and I liked it a lot, especially because it was very tense and emotional at times. And Leo’s voice added a lot to this, because it was so amusing reading things from her wry, pithy POV. Leo’s voice worked so well with this. The Austen influence was also quite apparent in these scenes, but I think that it works too. It’s definitely an influence, but it doesn’t obscure Alexa’s writing style and the book definitely feels modern and fresh and doesn’t lean too far into the more formal style of writing or speech that Austen uses.
Overall, I’d give The Stars We Steal a 8/10. I know I’ve probably spent too much time talking about the bad stuff, but I will say that the good elements of the book, Leo’s character, the romance, the situation, is so well crafted and I thought Alexa’s writing was immaculate in places. For me personally, I do wish Elliot’s character was sometimes less of an outright dick, and some of the things he does are hard to forgive, but it does make him come across as human and flawed. Overall, a very entertaining read and I’m looking forward to picking up more of Alexa’s books in the future.
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤