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Literature / These Broken Stars

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Tarver and Lilac are the sole survivors of the Icarus, a luxury starliner that crashes on an uninhabited planet.

They couldn't be more different. Lilac is a socialite, heiress to LaRoux Industries and daughter of one of the richest people alive. Tarver is a Major, a war hero who came from nothing. As they struggle to survive, the unlikely pair find themselves drawn together by more than necessity. Without the social pressures that kept them apart, the heiress and the soldier fall in love.

But there's more to the planet they've crashed on than they realise. Something is drawing the survivors onward, for a specific purpose. Something not of this universe...

These Broken Stars is the 2013 first novel in The Starbound Trilogy by Meagan Spooner and Aimee Kaufman. This Shattered World followed in 2014 and Their Fractured Light in 2015. An eStory, This Night So Dark was written to link the first and second books and is available on the writers' websites.


  • Abusive Parents: Roderick LaRoux. Lost his wife some years prior to the start of the novel, and responded by exerting an unhealthy amount of control in his daughter's life. She's surrounded by "friends" who are really bodyguards and all report her every move back to him. Anyone threatening to touch her life in any meaningful way soon suffers an unfortunate "accident" and her cousin Anna, the one person she loves who he can't get rid of, he poisons Lilac's relationship with by forcing her to report on her too.
  • Aerith and Bob: There's Anna and Emma, but also Lilac, Tarver and Swann.
  • Another Dimension: Hyperspace ships like the Icarus travel through dimensional rifts. It's probably while investigating these rifts that LaRoux Industries discovered the whispers, dimensional beings with Psychic Powers. These beings were trapped and experimented on, driving their tormentors crazy as a way of begging for release.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: The Obstructive Bureaucrat Tarver is being interviewed by has a habit of asking questions that amount to, "So what were your priorities during this desperate survival situation?"
  • Bad Liar: Tarver. When Lilac describes the bodies he buried (that he wouldn't let her see) in perfect detail, Tarver tells her she's wrong. He's unable to smother his initial reaction, however, and she doesn't believe him for a moment. Although he's a better liar in the Interrogation Flashback.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: When Tarver approaches Lilac in front of her Girl Posse, she puts him down in the most humiliating fashion possible. She does this so that her bodyguards and Anna don't report on him to her father, which would result in him having an unfortunate accident.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The shiny thing Tarver sees through a window as the Icarus goes down. For a while it appears that the planet has two moons, but they soon notice one moon is some sort of mirror array. It turns out to have something to do with the research station, although it's not clear what due to Sanity Slippage on the part of the scientists.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Roderick LaRoux owns LaRoux Industries and is probably the richest man in known space. He's also experimenting on extradimensional beings as a power source and to use their Mind Control abilities for his own ends, and has used his wealth and connections to have at least one person killed.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: All fifty thousand people aboard the Icarus, minus Lilac and Tarver. Take your pick: crushed in the panicking crowds running for the escape pods, electrocuted by the surge that destroyed the ship's systems, burning alive as the ship plummeted through the atmosphere or killed on impact after a terrifying fall to the surface in a failed escape pod. None of these deaths are pleasant.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Tarver speaks to his dead brother Alec twice. The first time, it's when he's dying of an infected cut and hallucinating. The second time, it's when he's damaged enough of the shielding at the research station for the whispers to communicate properly (instead of throwing images at people and hoping they get the idea), and use Alec's form to do so.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: All fifty thousand people aboard the Icarus, minus our two heroes, are killed when it's yanked out of hyperspace and crashes into the planet. Tarver and Lilac watch in horror as it plunges to the planet's surface, trailing nonfunctioning escape pods on fire.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Icarus travels in hyperspace. The events of the novel are triggered when it's yanked into normal space without any of the normal precautions, causing a surge of power that destroys its systems and results in the deaths of everyone aboard but Tarver and Lilac.
  • Girl Posse: Lilac is well-known in the tabloids for travelling with an entourage of similarly well-dressed girls. What's less well-known is that they're bodyguards. And that they report back to her father.
  • Heroic BSoD: Tarver, after Lilac is killed. He spends several nights with his gun poised under his chin, until the whispers give him Lilac back, and then things get really complicated.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: After untold years of captivity and experimentation, the whispers only want to die. In the form of Tarver's dead brother, they tell him they'd happily die to save the resurrected Lilac. This gives him the idea to jump into the dimensional rift with Lilac, allowing them to use their own energy to save her at the cost of their lives.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • The reason Lilac and Tarver aren't killed with everyone else is that they end up in an escape pod together, and Lilac has the expertise with electrical systems to realise that the pod hasn't deployed, and hotwire things to trigger it herself.
    • Major Tarver Merendson, field-promoted war hero from a backwater planet. Also the son of a famous poet whose book Lilac owns, and seems to be quite a poet himself.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The whispers do some not-so-nice things while trying to get Tarver and Lilac to find them, but it's done out of desperation and without malice, and they do some kind and thoughtful things too. The human scientists who studied them, however, lured, trapped and tortured sentient creatures before leaving them trapped and desperate just to die.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Lilac's eyes are blue, just like her father's. On him, they're more like Icy Blue Eyes.
  • Interrogation Flashback: Between the chapters are snippets of an interview in which Tarver recounts the events of the novel to an Obstructive Bureaucrat. It becomes increasingly clear as the story progresses that Tarver is being less-than-forthright with his interviewer.
  • Majorly Awesome: Major Tarver Merendson. Gained his rank at eighteen for unspecified heroics on the planet Patron.
  • Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: As he's a Major and she's a Socialite, this was always a given. Her Character Development revolves around becoming stronger, just in time for Tarver to get an infected wound and need her help.
  • Missing Mom: Lilac's mother died when she was eight, and it's implied that this is what has made her father so controlling of her.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: When they're about to be rescued, Tarver and Lilac decide on this strategy for getting their story straight: Lilac will play the Spoiled Brat by crying, throwing tantrums, screaming for her father and generally refusing to answer questions. Tarver, meanwhile, will play the dumb grunt.
  • Oh, Crap!: So, so many.
    • Lilac and Tarver have a major one as they reach the crest of a hill near their escape pod, just in time to watch the Icarus fall to the planet's surface, shedding burning escape pods as it goes. They're both clear that there will be no survivors.
    • A slowly-unfolding one as they draw closer to the wreck over several days, while seeing no signs of rescue efforts, meaning that LaRoux Industries have no idea where they crashed.
    • When Lilac is killed trying to blow through a door.
    • When the replica water canteen made by the whispers dissolves, meaning that whisper!Lilac is running out of time.
  • Papa Wolf: Roderick LaRoux is a deconstruction. His love for his daughter Lilac might be his only redeeming feature... if only it weren't a controlling, possessive, unhealthy sort of love. He's already had one young man killed for expressing an interest in her, and she lives in fear that a wrong word will result in someone else dying.
  • Pet the Dog: Tarver and Lilac share one in their first meeting at a soirée aboard the Icarus, when Tarver spots a gatecrasher and follows him. Turns out he's harmless, only there to beg Lilac to appeal to her father to provide his colony planets with technology, because people are dying without it. When the man is assaulted by some high-class, snobbish young men who are implied to be trying to impress Lilac, they both intervene, with Lilac telling the men off and Tarver escorting the gatecrasher safely away.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Lilac is wearing a flouncy silk emerald ballgown when she and Tarver are marooned on a deserted planet. It's soon in tatters as they trek through forests and across plains and mountains, and she abandons it as soon as she finds a change of clothes. The whispers replicate it when they bring her back to life.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Tarver all over. Showcased most obviously when he finds some bodies from the Icarus, and in burying them, takes boots from one of the women for Lilac.
  • Psychic Powers: How the whispers communicate, initially with Lilac, but later with Tarver after Lilac dies. They can make people hear and see things, read minds, and make some solid objects, such as a flower and a water canteen as well as a copy of Lilac when she dies.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Lilac begins her and Tarver's survival adventure in a Pimped-Out Dress and stiletto pumps. After many miles of hiking and no end of Clothing Damage, they reach the wreck of the Icarus where she ditches the remaining scraps of dress for jeans and a shirt.
  • Robbing the Dead:
    • Early on in their trek, Tarver finds five bodies in a failed escape pod. While burying them, he takes boots for Lilac from one of the bodies. She balks, but he assures her that if the people could speak, they'd tell them to take what they can use.
    • Lilac herself is forced to do this when she and Tarver reach the Icarus. Tarver cuts his hand, the cut gets infected and she's forced to go back into the ship full of decomposing bodies, again and again, over three days as she looks for medical supplies.
  • Sanity Slippage: As Lilac struggles to keep up with Tarver through the forest, she starts to hear voices. These voices soon turn to visions, then premonitions. Tarver manages to keep thinking she's hallucinating right up until he starts getting visions too.
  • Shame If Something Happened: When Lilac tells her father that she and Tarver are together, he implies that an unfortunate accident will befall him unless she breaks it off. She's prepared for that, however, and turns it around on him, threatening to reveal what she and Tarver found on the planet should anything happen to him. She also threatens that he will lose her forever if he does anything to Tarver.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Averted: Lilac's eyes are blue. Her cousin Anna fits the look better, but is killed on board the Icarus without impacting the plot very much.
  • Tempting Fate: Seriously, who calls a spaceship the Icarus? Roderick LaRoux, that's who.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Lilac insists on sleeping separately for the first few nights. Tarver thinks this is Skewed Priorities at work but can't be bothered to argue. In fact, she's trying to protect him from her father should he think something had happened.
  • They Would Cut You Up: After her and Tarver's rescue, Lilac is subjected to serious medical tests when it becomes apparent that she's a whisper-made replica. Thankfully, her father arrives and puts a stop to things.
  • True Blue Femininity: Tarver first sees Lilac wearing a ballgown in navy blue. At this time, unknown to him, she's essentially Alone in a Crowd thanks to her father controlling her life, echoing the sad and lonely side of the trope. She's wearing the same colour, a dressing gown this time, in the final scene. This time she's fresh from standing up to her father and is free to openly be with the man she loves.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The whispers are incorporeal interdimensional beings with Psychic Powers. They're trapped and experimented on by scientists working for LaRoux Industries, and when the experiment ends they're just left, as if they're worth no more than the abandoned equipment.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Once Lilac realises the voices she's hearing aren't delusions, she's desperate to prove it to Tarver. When she describes the people whose bodies he buried in perfect detail, he denies that it's them, and when her visions save them from a cave-in he still somehow denies it, mostly from not knowing what to do with the information. It's only when the whispers respond to Lilac's need to be believed by showing him his childhood home that he can't deny it anymore.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: When Lilac is resurrected by the Whispers, it soon becomes clear that they're using precious energy to maintain her, and that energy is running out. One by one, the other, simpler objects they've created turn to dust as time runs out for Lilac.