‘The Stars Undying’ by Emery Robin – Book Review

A Complex, Politically Charged Space Opera

The Stars Undying is a a fascinating and complex novel, one that marries both science fiction and Ancient mythology into a richly detailed world. There are a lot of parallels here to both Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, and perhaps that’s hardly surprising given these two are the inspiration for the story that follows.

The plot see-saws back and forth between dual perspectives, the first comes from Princes Altagracia, who has lost everything. After a bitter civil war with her twin sister Alectelo, Gracia flees and seeks the help of a powerful and wise man who just so happens to rule most of the Swordbelt Arm; Matheus Ceirran.

The commander of the Interstellar Empire of Ceiao is accompanied by his right-hand woman Anita, who doesn’t exactly take kindly to Gracia’s unconventional approach to seeking help. However, Gracia’s ties with Ceirran ultimately entwine their fates together and as the pair play a deadly game of mental chess, trying to suss the other out, Anita waits in the wings, ever watchful – and ever vigilant.

What soon ensues is an intriguing narrative that takes on two complexions – one from the perspective of Ceirran and the other from Gracia. Both are actually pretty unreliable narrators with Gracia even nonchalantly throwing out a couple of big lies to lead us into believing a certain truth, only to then whip that back with a surprise chapter that contradicts this. I’m being careful not to spoil anything here but the final part of the book does such a great job capturing this, reframing what we’ve seen across the book.

Although this has been dubbed as a space opera, this is much less a swashbuckling adventure of laser battles and daring dogfights in space and much more a politically charged drama. The second part of this story in particular screeches to a halt, revelling in its slow and – ever so often -laborious pace at times, with a lot of politics to boot.

As the story moves across to Ceirran’s home planet (which is basically Rome, let’s be honest) it brings with it a lot of political backstabbing, power plays, council meetings and long-winded discussions and parties. In essence, we’re told about events happening around the galaxy rather than shown.

Where this book really excels though is with its characters. Emery Robin has crafted a really fascinating narrative here and both Gracia and Ceirran are complex, flawed and unpredictable players in this game. There’s also Alekso and Anita who make up the four main players of this tale, but the latter is the real stand-out here. The way Anita is written is fascinating and we see her from both Gracia and Ceirran’s perspective, and she constantly evolves and surprises across the 500+ pages.

The Stars Undying is one of those books that’s likely to find mixed reactions from many that read this. It’s really well written no doubt, but the writing style relies on long paragraphs for worldbuilding as well as a lot of name drops. In fact, when the story moves across to Ceirran’s home, the sheer number of ministers and officials that crop up can be quite overwhelming.

The ensemble is pretty diverse across the board and there are some pretty steamy sex scenes in here too, but ultimately they feed back into that idea of power. Power is the central theme of the story and you can feel that through both Ceirran and Gracia’s chapters. The gravitas of their actions, echoing that of Caesar and Cleopatra from our own history, is so well constructed and understanding what drives the pair will have you itching to pick up a history book and learn more about ancient history.

The Stars Undying is a complex and at times difficult book to get through. This is not one advised to binge through, given the detail put into its characters and worlds. This is one you need to savour over time, although that taste may be more acquired than some may be comfortable with. The middle of the book does sag quite a bit but thankfully a strong opening and closing act makes it worth persevering with. The Stars Undying is not perfect, but as a debut novel, this is a worthy venture and certainly worth reading.


Our thanks to Netgalley and Little Brown Book Group for the advanced reader’s copy! The Stars Undying will be published on 8th November 2022. You can pre-order the novel here!

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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