I recently had the immense pleasure of reading A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia Cole, the first book in the Faloiv series. I can’t remember the last time I read a book for the
first time and loved it so much. This book almost made me cry (not quite), and that’s something that most books do not accomplish. (I must admit, however, part of that is because it is the first in a series and only just came out this year. Pet peeve of mine.)
Let’s begin with a little synopsis (which I did NOT write: this is the exact wording used on the book cover).
Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.
But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.
With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.
The first thing to mention is that Olivia Cole’s worldbuilding is fantastic. The human Earth is present as the Origin Planet, which humans left basically because it was no longer habitable. Cole creates a beautiful new planet, Faloiv, on which this story (and then presumably the series) takes place. To populate Faloiv, she utilizes humans, but also fashions an entirely new people, the Faloii, who are actually indigenous to the planet and sort of rule it in a way. (It’s kind of cool that in this book, humans are actually the aliens.) When humans first crash-landed on the planet forty years ago, the Faloii allowed them to stay (without killing them). Although the humans must live within a specified area, the Faloii generously agreed to let them study the plant and animal life on the planet.
Speaking of which…in addition to the Faloii themselves, Faloiv is also inhabited by hundreds of species, both plants and animals, that Cole came up with herself. They are brought to life so vividly that it took no effort for me to see them in my mind’s eye, which is a major feat for any writer to accomplish.
As far as the story itself goes, I thought it was humans. The idea that humans inevitably try to control whatever they can–whether or not it’s theirs–is something that comes out in books time and time again. It often is not quite as clear as it is here. A Conspiracy of Stars shows the worse part of human nature and what can happen when that side is given free rein.
Olivia Cole’s characters are also fantastic. I felt like I really knew Octavia by the end of the book, and I had a good grasp of her way of thinking. Her best friend, Alma, is everything that a best friend should be: supportive, encouraging, and loyal to the end. As for Rondo….ah, Rondo. Rondo is so sweet and beautiful, and he fits together perfectly with Octavia and Alma. And the relationship between Rondo and Octavia is a beautiful thing, sweet without being over the top. I did feel it was kind of obvious that that was going to happen, though, as it seems nearly every fantasy book seems to stick a romantic interest in there for the main character. (And yes, I am guilty of that, too…it’s something I need to work on.)
Overall, A Conspiracy of Stars was nothing but a pleasure to read. I greatly admire Cole’s ability to bring another world to life in such a manner, as well as the story she has given Octavia. I look forward to reading the rest of the series once it is available!