DNF Reviews: Tarnished are the Stars & The Good Luck Girls – Why does YA Hate Me? (I’m Open to Suggestions)

Here’s a fun stat for you: I DNFed 5 books in the past month and a half, and four of them were YA SFF. And I’m pretty sure they’re at least 60% responsible for the reading slump I’m currently in.


1) Recent YA SFF is just missing a lot of the stuff I crave. Also, I should be more selective about the books that I request, and for god’s sake, read some reviews beforehand.


2) I’ve been (VERY UNFAIRLY) cursed by the bookish gods and now I must travel to the heart of the Northern Canadian woods to capture a Wendigo and make an offering–

Yeah, clearly 2 is the way to go.


book cover (1)

(Stopping point: ~45%)

You say “steampunk” and “divided loyalties” and “cat and mouse” and “queer”; I say,  “Please–I offer you my first born.”

Well, I hope the bookish gods accept cancellations because Tarnished are the Stars is definitely not worth my first born. Or any of my born for that matter.

I always say that I can forgive poor worldbuildng if I’m able to connect with the characters. But there’s a limit to that. And my limit is this book. I found the writing to be so sparse of detail to the point where it felt like a slice-of-life contemporary than a sci-fi–heavy with dialogue and a vague sense of setting, which isn’t at all helped by how short each POV chapter is.

And a slice-of-life-esque worldbuilding is fine if the story itself is slice-of-life. This book? Nothing close to that. It’s a steampunk space opera with intrigue and a organics-versus-technology plotline, and therefore I want to see something more than Scene A – generic store, Scene B – generic mansion, and Scene C – generic field.



Now, this next book has the exact OPPOSITE problem. So at least my DNF reads were…varied? Yay?

The Good Luck Girls

(Stopping point: ~38%)

ME: So, it’s kind of weird how there are no characters in The Good Luck Girls…but at least the setting is neat!

*vague whisperings in brain cavity*

ME: Uh, what do you mean I’m looking at the characters?

Ah yes. The good old problem of “interesting worldbuilding, flat/invisible characters.” This is a more familiar territory for me.

Let’s get to the positive first: the worldbuilding and the general premise of the story is super fascinating. There are two groups of people who live in Arketta, dustbloods and fairbloods, and they’re more or less alike in appearance minus one little detail: dustbloods don’t cast shadows. And while fairbloods are offered privileges and opportunities, dustbloods are forced to live in indentured servitude–as prostitutes, for example, which is what the Good Luck Girls are.

The writing itself is really solid and descriptive, and all the little details about the setting are a nice touch. Also, copious descriptions of food equal a very happy Kathy.

All of this was negated by the characters. Holy friggin’ coconuts, the characters. You have this cool western setting–rich and dusty and unforgiving–and it’s somehow populated with characters with less personality and depth than the back of a cereal box. They were just…blank. And eerily so. I couldn’t find myself caring about any of them, or their predicament, and well, that was that.



So. What books should I pack for my Wendigo-hunting trip? And what’s your go-to remedy for bookish curses?

(I’ve been a BIT sleep-deprived this week–I don’t know if you can tell??)

21 thoughts on “DNF Reviews: Tarnished are the Stars & The Good Luck Girls – Why does YA Hate Me? (I’m Open to Suggestions)

  1. Sarah says:

    I’ve more or less given up on YA SFF unless I see positive reviews from someone whose tastes I know very well. I’ve struggled to figure out why it is. Usually it’s not the world building or the characters although those could come in to play, but a sense of sameness and predictability about them.

    Anyway- sorry these didn’t work for you. Hope you get that first born back. Load up with talismans and charms for that wendigo battle! Lol


  2. meghanplaysgames says:

    I find YA generally so hit and miss now, it’s really aggravating. I always check the Goodreads reviews before committing to buying one – can’t be spending $20+ on a pretty hardcover that’s going to be hot trash. I’m just waiting for Call Down the Hawk next week – hoping it’s going to be good!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Same!! There were some really good ones last year, but a lot of the new YA authors this year have been a BIG miss for me. Sigh.

      And fingers crossed for Call Down the Hawk! Chapters sent my copy early and I can’t even read it yet because I haven’t finished 3 & 4 of TRC. So that’s my goal for this week. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anna @MyBookishDream says:

    Too bad about both of these books. Tarnished Are The Stars interested me because I heard that the main character (or one of them?) was asexual, but the premise just didn’t grip me. Now hearing your thoughts on it I’m not interested at all. I have a feeling I just wouldn’t enjoy it. Great reviews! 😀


  4. acquadimore says:

    YA space opera with bad worldbuilding strikes again? That’s the #1 reason I don’t read it anymore, so I feel you. But it’s still disappointing, because Tarnished Are The Stars did sound amazing, and so did the Good Luck Girls (but I’m finding that many YA fantasy that try to have a big cast lately completely fail and I’ve heard this has one, so I’m not surprised.)
    Anyway, good luck with your next read and the Wendigo!


  5. 🌌Sia is the Star Arcana🌌 (@raenbowgirl) says:

    I bounced off both these books too, and I don’t think I got nearly as far as you did with either of them. I wanted to like Tarnished so badly, but I didn’t make it even five chapters in.

    There have been a few great YAs this year, though. My absolute favourite is Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen, which is honestly one of the best books I’ve read in years. Then there’s Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve, which is about a genderqueer zombie and a lesbian werewolf. The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante is probably hit-or-miss – I can see people DNFing it if they don’t like the writing style – but I loved it.

    And I haven’t finished these yet, but so far War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi and Pet by Akwaeke Emezi are both really good.


  6. Captain's Quarters says:

    Sounds like ye had the same problems with the good luck girls that I did. Bummer. In general I have found that YA SF doesn’t usually work for me. Too much angst and not enough space world building. But I still can’t help but try sometimes. Arrrr!
    x The Captain

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Aw no, I’m sorry Good Luck Girls didn’t work out for you either! I love western fantasies and I had moderately high hopes for it, but alas….

      I think my YA SF to Fantasy reading ratio is about 1:10? So not a lot, and I definitely find myself craving more worldbuilding in most of them. Which is probably why I’m drawn to adult space SF with young-ish protagonists. You get the coming-of-age/fish-out-of-water plotline AND robust worldbuilding. Win win! 😀


  7. sjhigbee says:

    I’d agree with the Cap. While I have found some YA fantasy that I’ve loved, mostly the YA sci fi is so/so. That said – I did enjoy Earthgirl by Janet Edwards. I think she’s got the world nailed and I like Jarra’s chirpy upbeat attitude. Have you read it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      I haven’t!! But I’m glancing through a sample right now and it sounds fascinating. And I like the writing style! I’ll gently sneak it into my TBR mountain. 🙂

      I think with a lot of YA scifi, I end up comparing them to adult SF, and 80% of the time, the YA version comes up short. Especially those high-concept, multiplanetary stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      • sjhigbee says:

        I know what you mean. I think it’s because a lot of YA is chiefly concerned with youngsters getting to grips with the unwritten rules that adults need to contend with. So it is far more bound up with interpersonal stories, which don’t always translate successfully into stories spanning worlds unless the author is very clever and original. Like Becky Chambers, for instance, who is writing for everyone, not just YA audiences. Though I think her stuff should be read by that age group, too:)


  8. Lisa says:

    Good luck with the Wendigo! There have been a couple of YA fantasy books lately that I barely even count as DNFs — couldn’t get past the first handful of pages. For me, so many of the worlds or set-ups seem like the work is showing, trying to hard to create something new or different, and it feels like a chore to bother figuring it all out.


  9. waytoofantasy says:

    Sorry you’ve been slumping and having so many DNF books. Usually my remedy is to switch up genres or read an old favorite and that will get me back in the mood. I know you have the reread coming up soon, maybe that will do the trick!


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