By Kass Morgan
Published October 9, 2018 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Light Years is a fun and fast-paced young adult sci-fi novel about students training at an elite military academy. The Quatra Fleet Academy trains the best young students to become officers in their military. This is the first year that the academy has opened their enrollment to students from the outer planets of the Quatra Federation, who are known as Settlers. Each planet has sent their best and brightest, but many from the main planet, Tri, are not happy about the new open policy and regard the Settlers as second-class citizens.
The story focuses on four students. Cormack is desperate to get off his deadly planet, so he takes his dead brother’s identity and place at the academy. Vesper is a wealthy girl from Tri, whose mother is a high-rank military veteran who runs the academy. She’s only there because her mother pulled strings, so she’s desperate to prove herself. Arran grew up on another outer planet and lived a life of privation, but his acceptance to the academy has lifted his mother out of poverty. Orelia claims to be from the outer planet of Chetire, but she’s actually a spy from the Federation’s greatest enemies, the Specters. The Specters want to destroy the academy and wipe out the next generation of their enemies’ military.
Cormack and Vesper antagonize each other when Cormack is made the leader of their practice squadron, a role Vesper has been practicing for her whole life. Arran falls for a handsome Tridian, but wonders if his beloved can actually care about a Settler. Orelia has her mission, but living, studying, and working with her enemies makes her wonder if what she’s doing is right.
I liked all four of the characters, although I felt least connected to Cormack’s narrative (he’s a bit of cocky jerk). Vesper’s desperation to prove herself to her mother makes her very relatable, and Arran is a cinnamon role who you just want to hug. He’s very insecure, and is never sure whether his handsome Tridian actually cares about him. I like that Arran and his love interest Dash being gay is not an issue in their society. The main conflict in their relationship is that Dash’s father is racist and doesn’t approve of the Settlers being allowed to attend the academy.
Orelia was the most interesting character to me. She’s been trained her whole life to fight for her people, but having to live and study with her supposed enemies makes her see them as actual people and not just abstractions. She also learns that the Tridian view of her people isn’t based in reality, and that what the people are told by their leaders may not be the truth (or maybe the Specter leaders are lying to their people?). I found the political aspects of the ongoing war to be potentially the most interesting part of the plot, but this part of the book was pretty underdeveloped and I wanted more. But this is the first book in a series, so I assume we’ll get into more of the politics of the war in the next book.
This was a fast-paced book, and I read it really quickly. I think fans of The Illuminae Files and The Starbound Trilogy will enjoy it.
I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.