Plot/Idea: The complexity of Knightly's created world gives the novel serious depth while forcing readers to pay close attention in order to track the story's colorful variety of characters and settings.
Prose: The prose is fluent and spirited, and Knightly adds a pleasant sense of humor that elevates the story.
Originality: Exostar handles challenging but important themes, including the main character's treatment as inferior due to her prosthetic leg. Sociopolitical undertones in the story hint at broader messages, but they are not clarified in a way that reveals the author's true intent.
Character/Execution: Twelve-year-old Trinket is an appealing character, and the ostracism she experiences due to her prosthetic leg (aptly named Champ) is deftly portrayed—and drives her determination to survive.
Date Submitted: June 08, 2023
Knightly ensures young readers a thrilling escapade with this delightful protagonist. Trinket is more than a “piece of scrap” as she struggles to find a sense of self in a world without a family to guide her. Her prosthetic leg, affectionately nicknamed “Champion,” is desperately in need of repairs, something that can be fixed on a different planet, but she isn’t about to jump a shuttle and jet away. Her personal challenges carve a deep well of empathy within herself—and in readers—and she harnesses that emotion to save an orphan boy from a life of misery. Escaping to a better world proves challenging when alien oppressors hunt Trinket for mysterious purposes, but her bravery shines bright and exemplifies a deep-seeded courage that readers will find inspiring.
Other unique and eccentric characters bring welcome life to the narrative, such as furry fighter Woolver Talandrin and an alien named “ƪƆƳƥƎƼǤ,” who goes by Tulo for short. Some of the story’s momentum and surprises slows in the book’s middle, but Knightly sprinkles nail-biting action throughout. Many pivotal questions remain intentionally unanswered, enticing young readers to return for future adventures within the series. Middle-grade fans of fantasy and sci fi will delight in this creative and imaginative quest.
Takeaway: Nail-biting action and a courageous robot girl power this middle grade SF thriller.
Great for fans of: Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl, M.H. Woodscourt.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
"In this middle-grade SF novel, a young hero searches for a space treasure. Trinket is a 12-year-old whom locals derogatorily label a “piece of scrap.”
Living in the city of Axiopolis on the planet Kepra-2 in the Milky Way, Trinket admits to her personal, built-in computer, Empty, that she “didn’t know whether she was a mortal being with a metal leg or an android with artificial emotions.”
Regardless, Trinket is determined to prove herself. Her chance comes when Axiopolis is invaded by the Remnants, cruel warriors led by the ruthless Count Solomon Drakir—a man who fears no one but his boss, the Supreme Leader. The Remnants pillage Trinket’s old house, in which she lived with her creator, the Old Scientist, now deceased. The warriors discover evidence that points to the existence of a “Lost Space Treasure”—and to Trinket as the key to unlocking it.
Now, Trinket must avoid capture by the Remnants and battle her way to the treasure first if she is to save the universe. Meanwhile, a war between the Remnants and the Interstellar Alliance looms. During her quest, she meets an unexpected ally in Woolver Talandrin, a wanted terrorist from the farming planet Plethora, who may harbor key secrets.
In this series opener, Knightly’s worldbuilding is richly detailed, from its unique languages to its specific cultures like the A’hmuns and Sea Keprans.
But while the story also offers gripping action, it is the personal connections that make this novel shine. Trinket’s bond with Empty is both funny and touching, and her growing friendship with Woolver evolves right alongside her confidence in her own abilities. This smoothly written story is ultimately about a spirited hero discovering who she is and what she’s really capable of—with a generous helping of some stellar fight scenes along the way.
Packed with engaging characters and nonstop action, this riveting SF adventure will delight readers." - KIRKUS REVIEWS
Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
"Exostar is the first book in The Lost Space Treasures Series by Rae Knightly.
Trinket is a twelve-year-old android living a solitary life on the planet Kepra-2 after the death of the Old Scientist. Apart from her Mass Transfer Device, Empty, Trinket doesn't have anyone she can call a friend and is desperate to leave Kepra-2 before the ruthless Remnants send her to the scrap heap. But first, she must rescue a young boy from an orphanage.
However, an unforeseen turn of events puts her at odds with the Remnants' Supreme Leader. After learning that she may hold the secrets to unlocking the Lost Treasure of the Keepers, Trinket inadvertently gets her hands on the most precious object in the known Universe, the Exostar. With the entire Remnant fleet on her trail, will Trinket find her way to freedom?
A swirling mix of suspense, mystery, and action makes Exostar an absolute page-turner of a novel. If you're a fan of sci-fi stories set in space, this one will be right up your alley. Rae Knightly has delivered a gripping first installment to what promises to be an epic space opera saga for kids and young adults alike. Apart from the fast-paced narrative and well-placed twists and turns of the plot, Knightly excels at crafting some compelling characters with whom you can identify. Trinket is someone you want to root for. I especially enjoyed her friendship with Empty as well as her dynamic with Woolver Talandrin.
This is a gem of a book for sci-fi lovers."