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“A Rogue. A Commander. An Admiral. Brought together by circumstance, held together by duty.
Can they find a way to work together to save humanity?”

UMBRAFilled with flawed yet loveable characters, spunky sentient starships, cutthroat political intrigue, exhilarating space battles, emotionally charged interpersonal relationships, and a delicious tease of slow-burn enemies to lovers romance, UMBRA is a multi-POV intergalactic space opera adventure that will leave you star-struck by the end!

Now, Toro wastes absolutely zero time and launches us straight into the action. On the one hand, I was immediately hooked by the astronomically high levels of intrigue and tension, but at the same time the action-packed introduction to each of the three POV characters felt quite hectic to me. I found it a bit hard to distinguish between their inner voices at first, which is why it took me quite a while to really get settled into the story.

However, once these characters’ paths started to cross, it seemed like the stars had suddenly aligned for me, and I blazed through the rest of the book from there. Skyla, Hinata and Freyja all quickly proved to be very compelling protagonists to me, especially because all their virtues and vices are immediately on full display. Both the world-ending stakes and the personal stakes quickly rise to unimaginable heights, and I honestly loved getting dragged into a wild emotional rollercoaster along with them as their complicated pasts started to catch up to them.

The feisty Skyla, who is arguably the main main character of this story, immediately captured my heart in the prologue, and I only started to enjoy her more as her layers were peeled back. I mean, she is bonded to a sentient starship with a very strong personality and picks up a wolf-ish animal companion along the way… how could I not love her?!

And the development of her complicated interpersonal relationships with the other two POV characters was also riveting to watch unfurl. Look, I am not saying that this is a romance-driven story at all, but I also can’t deny that I wasn’t eating up all the little tantalising bits of teasing banter, electrifying sexual tension, and delicious ‘will they, won’t they’ vibes between her and the broody, straight-laced Hinata; this is how you do a good slow-burn romance subplot!

All that said, my favourite storyline in the entire book was easily Freyja’s, and I don’t think that will be a popular opinion. Did I want to strangle her many times throughout this story? Yes, absolutely. But what can I say, I will always be trash for a misunderstood, angry woman who is way too snarky for her own good. The exploration of her vulnerable sides and her tentative growth over the course of this story was just beautiful to witness, and I honestly wanted to just give her a big hug by the end.

UMBRA might not be a dense brick of a book, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it lacks depth in any kind of way. The amount of world building that Toro manages to pack into this narrative alongside all the powerful character work and chaotic action is truly out of this world. From the mystifying lore and legends about Earth That Was, to the diverse cultures of the 12 tribes, to the intricate webs of political schemes, to the neurological bond between captains and their sentient starships, and to all the mysteries surrounding the looming danger that is threatening to destroy humanity; I was truly over the moon about it all!

Now, I can’t sit here and pretend that some of the scientific terminology and quantum physics concepts didn’t make my tiny brain crack a bit initially, but somehow Toro managed to smoothly catch me up without ever giving an awkward info-dump. The accessible yet eloquent prose combined with the emotionally engaging storytelling made this entire story and universe just unfurl in the most organic way possible, which is exactly what made UMBRA so deliciously bingeable.

Safe to say, I think UMBRA is an incredibly strong opening to the Sentient Stars trilogy, and I have a feeling we have only scratched the surface. Especially after the bittersweet final chapters and brutal cliffhanger, I am now counting down the days until book 2 releases. If you are ready to be launched into an exciting space opera adventure that strikes the perfect balance between emotionally rich character work, riveting political intrigue, and pulse-pounding space battles, then I can’t recommend UMBRA highly enough!

Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. UMBRA is scheduled for release on April 24, 2024. 

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Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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