Review: OUT PAST THE STARS by K.B. Wagers

Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 383
Release Date: February 23rd, 2021
Series: THE FARIAN WAR, Book 3
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Liked It!
(4/5 Stars for the series overall)

Note: I was provided a free review copy by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead for earlier books in the series. You can read reviews for those books here: THERE BEFORE THE CHAOS; DOWN AMONG THE DEAD

It’s time for Empress Hail Bristol to face some gods. Or at least, what the race of Farians BELIEVE are gods. Hail and her crew soon discover the three immortal beings are actually powerful aliens from another galaxy who are in hiding from the rest of their race. But what led these aliens to break off from their own kind? Why have they been manipulating the Farians for millennia? And why are these god-like beings so interested in Hail Bristol? Hail must navigate prophecies and plans that were centuries in the making if she is to broker peace and prevent the annihilation of not just the Farians, but her own empire as well.

OUT PAST THE STARS brings to a close the tale of a character that has been near and dear to my heart since I read her first adventure four years ago. THE FARIAN WAR is the second trilogy starring Hail Bristol, a princess who ran away from home to become a smuggler, only to be dragged back 20 years later when assassinations leave her next in line to the throne. Both THE INDRANAN WAR and THE FARIAN WAR blend politics, action and light romance together in one delightful space adventure, and it’s bittersweet to say farewell to this character.

For those with short memories, brushing up on the events of DOWN AMONG THE DEAD is highly recommended, as OUT PAST THE STARS begins mere moments after the ending of book two, with very little recap to help reacclimate yourself. I admit, I don’t remember the difference between the Farian and the Shen (though I know this was explored in DOWN AMONG THE DEAD), but in the grand scheme of things, that difference didn’t particularly matter. Both factions hate each other and Hail will spend a chunk of her time trying to force these two sides to come to some sort of accords. As always, there’s both light political maneuvering and plenty of action to be had, an excellent space romp for those who like some good old-fashioned fun.

By this point in the series, OUT PAST THE STARS hits a rhythm familiar to anyone who’s read the previous books in this series, and it’s because of this structural repetition I rated it slightly less than its predecessors. But that repetition is also what makes this series fantastic comfort food. It’s the kind of adventure where at the end of the day, the good guys are good, and the bad guys will be defeated, and sometimes you just need that kind of reassuring story structure in your life. Yes, there will be pitfalls and some casualties, some moments of devastating losses. But in the end, you can count on Hail to come out on top because she’s the Hero and that’s what she does.

Let’s talk a moment about Hail. She’s absolutely kick-ass, brash and obstinate, willing to literally bring down a chandelier onto a conference table when two sides at a peace talk are bickering too much. But Hail is also vulnerable and empathetic. She’s driven by a duty to protect her citizens, but is also fiercely protective of her immediate circle of friends and confidants. She’s the kind of person who hates having BodyGuards because she doesn’t want anyone taking a bullet for her. She would rather lay down her own life to protect them instead.

Besides Hail, these two trilogies have a wonderful cast of returning characters. You can expect Emmory to be constantly exasperated at his protectee’s refusal to stay protected; Hao will be on hand to provide a more mercenary view of political situations; and Johar’s always got Hail’s back in a fire fight. Many of these characters have been with Hail since the first trilogy, and it feels like seeing old friends when opening this third and final book in the series.

OUT PAST THE STARS concludes a series of books that have been a fantastic ride to experience. On top of everything I’ve just mentioned, THE FARIAN WAR also features a matriarchal society and nonchalant acceptance of everything in the LGBTQ spectrum. Indeed, Hail herself is bi, having had a past relationship with a man and now finding herself at the beginnings of a romance with a woman. If any of this sounds appealing and you haven’t started the series, I highly recommend starting all the way back with the first book in the first trilogy, BEHIND THE THRONE, and catching up with the life and times of the Gunrunner Empress.

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