Just when I thought Victories Greater Than Death had blown my expectations away, Charlie Jane Anders impresses me even more with the second book in her YA sci-fi trilogy, Unstoppable. With higher stakes and excellent character arcs, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak surpasses its predecessor in more ways than one.
I’ve received an ARC of Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Note: This review contains mild spoilers for Victories Greater Than Death.
Tina, Rachael, Damini, Kez, Yiwei, and Elza have adjusted to life on a different planet in a different galaxy, but not without consequences. Since their battle with Marrant and the rest of The Compassion, Rachel lost her artistic ability. Elza competes to become a princess and enters the Palace of Scented Tears, where she encounters projected memories of Marrant and Captain Argentian (Tina’s past incarnation.) And Tina soon has to make an important decision. There’s a dangerous enemy, one that even the Shapers, an ancient race that left behind a superweapon, fear. If Tina cannot fight them before it’s too late, she’d have no choice but to make that sacrifice.
Charlie Jane Anders goes beyond the structure and conflict from the first book in the trilogy. Instead of sticking to Tina’s point of view, the sequel alternates between her, Rachael, and Elza. Their distinct voices and narrative arcs complement the overall plot. Not only that, but the author also spectacularly moves her characters in this universe. Rachael struggles with the other alien species claiming her as the “chosen one.” She becomes depressed from her inability to draw and her romantic relationship with Yiwei takes a complicated turn.
Meanwhile, Elza experiences political turmoil and unrest. Hailing from Brazil (Black and travesti), she compares moments and events that apply to the familiar from home. Her beliefs and identities shape her and impact how she moves and reacts in a different environment.
Like in the first book, the author seamlessly intertwines themes of identity and heroism. Tina still feels conflicted about living up to Argentian’s legacy. Rachael doesn’t want to be seen as a savior because of the effects of what happened to her during the first book. Elza learns what it means to be a princess and even about Marrant’s past (how he had come to be currently.)
The external conflict involves The Compassion threatening to expand their conquest. But it’s about the personal journey as well, and the main characters endure trials that test their belief and themselves.
Read my review of Victories Greater Than Death here.
Learn more about Charlie Jane Anders here.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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