The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Publication date: 15 July 2019
Genre: Middle grade science fiction
Page count: 136 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review
I absolutely love Lauren James’s The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, so I was naturally thrilled to pick up a copy of her latest book, The Starlight Watchmaker. A novella from Barrington Stoke, a publisher that focuses on readable books for dyslexic and reluctant young readers, I couldn’t wait to get my paws on this little book. I did enjoy it, but I found that I couldn’t quite turn off my detail-obsessed adult sci-fi brain!
Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.
A wildly imaginative sci-fi adventure from YA star Lauren James, particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+.
There is a lot to love in The Starlight Watchmaker. The thing that stands out the most is the astonishing world building and detail. The various alien species that attend the academy and the planets they come from were absolutely wonderful to read about — I would happily read more set in this wide universe. I particularly loved Dorian and Ada’s people, their respective planets, and the hints of their cultures. My only issue is that my sci-fi brain needed more information! How does the academy accommodate a student that is literally growing up to be a continent? How do they feed a species that consume mostly algae? What are the laws surrounding androids and who creates them? Not to mention the questions of how quantum energy is regulated and how time travel works. I wasn’t able to shut off this part of my brain while reading it and I just wanted more, more, more.
The characters in this book, particularly Hugo, were really lovely. Watching him go from a lonely but content watchmaker alone in his attic room to a confident character with friends was very rewarding. I love books that feature friendships, especially platonic friendships as well as friendships that have the potential to develop into something more, and this book gives you exactly that.
Overall, The Starlight Watchmaker was a really lovely surface-level story. Due to its length and age range, it doesn’t go particularly deep into the science fiction elements. I thought it was a nice read, but will probably not be the most memorable. However! I think that if you’re more into middle grade than I am, The Starlight Watchmaker will be a very rewarding read.
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Have you read The Starlight Watchmaker? What about her other books? Is it in your TBR? Let me know!