Growing up, the Inheritance Cycle was one of my favorite book series. I was on a HUGE fantasy kick after seeing The Return of the King at ten-years-old, and to feed my obsession, I became immediately enamored with the world Christopher Paolini created. In the years that followed the release of the final book in the series, Inheritance, I hadn’t heard of any new projects.
You can imagine my surprise when, towards the tail end of 2020, I discovered that he had written his first novel for adults, the massive sci-fi space opera, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.
Intended to be the first in a new universe Paolini is calling “The Fractalverse,” Stars is set in a future where space travel for the masses has become possible. Humanity has traveled and colonized amongst the stars, and other species have become known. We focus on Kira Navárez, a xenobiologist working for The United Military Command, or UMC. Before settling down with her fiancé, Kira goes to recover a downed drone on the planet Adrasteia.
It is there she stumbles upon the Soft Blade, an ancient nanotech organism that becomes one with Kira against her wishes. Now bonded with the Soft Blade, Kira is soon thrust into a gigantic intergalactic war between humanity and a race of beings called the Jellies, and she may be the key to ending it.
I was extremely curious to pick this up, having been a fan of Paolini’s work prior. What would this world look like now that he’s operating in a different genre (sci-fi rather than fantasy)? And with this being his first adult novel, what constraints would be removed?
Once I began reading, I could not put it down. To put it quite simply: I loved this.
Paolini manages to suck you in immediately with the worldbuilding featured in the novel. The universe that he has created feels so rich and full with the sheer number of planets, communities, religions, and races introduced. It’s far vaster and grander than the Inheritance Cycle was right out of the gate. More than once, I caught myself daydreaming outside of the main storyline because my mind was too busy picturing what all the other beings and worlds looked like.
As for the plot itself, it’s your standard “chosen one being thrust into something far greater than themselves” type of scenario. In that way, it’s similar to the Inheritance Cycle. However, the reason why this spin on that story succeeds more than other novels working within this trope, is the quality of the characters.
The characters are so likable and relatable, especially the crew of the Wallfish. Essentially a ragtag group of mercenaries, they immediately come across as engaging and full of spirit. They may seem tough, but in actuality, they have genuine layers and good-natured affection underneath their rough exterior. Once the crew of the Wallfish were introduced, they immediately captured my heart.
As for our protagonist, Kira Navárez, you immediately connect with her and feel for the sacrifices she has to make on a journey she unwillingly has to take part in. Paolini’s excellent prose allow the reader to experience every struggle and moment of genuine emotion Kira has throughout the novel. Without spoiling too much, the arc of her character feels complete by book’s end…even though there’s plenty of story left to continue in the Fractalverse.
If the stories planned for this universe continue to hit these heights, then I can’t wait to see what Paolini dreams up next.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini is out now and available at your local bookstore, library, or anywhere fine books are sold.