Book Reviews,  Coming of Age,  Science Fiction,  Speculative Fiction

Book Review: Divinity 36

Divinity 36 (Tinkered Starsong, #1)Divinity 36 by Gail Carriger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is there anything more frustrating than enjoying the first book of a series, only to then find out that the rest of the series just sort of fizzled out? Gail Carriger shows us how a series is done right. She didn’t release her Tinkered Starsong trilogy until all three books were completed. Then, to the delight of her avid readers, she released all of them in 2023, with a new book coming out every other month from June through October. When the third and final book dropped on October 1st, I decided it was time to for me to dive into the Tinkered Starsong series.

In book one, Divinity 36, our protagonist is a sixteen-year-old human named Phex who works as a barista in a small cafe on a backwater moon. One day, as he sings along with a popular song to ease the boredom of his job, Phex is ‘discovered’ by a Dyesi. The Dyesi are an exotic alien race that seeks out talented individuals to become music superstars—or as they are known in this reality, gods. Phex’s life is about to change… a lot.

Popular music in the Tinkered Starsong universe is nothing like any music you’ve experienced before. The K-pop music group business model (I call it that, because that’s what K-pop is, a business) is clearly a huge influence on Gail Carriger’s superstar groups. The Dyesi assemble their recruits to form six-member ‘pantheons’ made up of singers, dancers and beings who are able to create organic lightshows in a way that I’m not even going to try to describe here. Just know that it’s a fresh concept, clever as heck, and will evoke beauty in your mind that you will wish you could see with your own eyes.

The performances put on by fully trained pantheons is pleasing to not only the Dyesi who created them, but to the entire galaxy. The music (Godsong, as it’s called) is a religious experience to their adoring worshippers, whose rapture is pushed to the limit – and occasionally beyond, with terrifying results.

The plot and pacing of the story plays out in a relaxed manner, which is perfect for a predominantly character-driven story. Gail does not write perfect characters; clearly she knows that the slightly broken ones are far more interesting and carry a greater capacity to grow, change, and build interesting relationships.

As for the worldbuilding – there’s triple moons joined by tube-bridges, dormitory-style buildings with puffy furniture and fun kitchens, a coffee shop that should feel familiar to anyone who’s ever ingested caffeine, a planet where everyone lives in tunnels underground, and domes. Oh, the domes! There’s no use trying to explain them, you will need to ‘see’ them for yourself.

If you’ve read Carriger’s Crudrat (A standalone story set in this universe, released in 2022), you’ll feel more familiar with Phex’s background, but it’s not required reading to enjoy this story. However, I’d personally recommend it. For me, it added another layer of complexity to my enjoyment of Divinity 36.

Now it’s time for me to crack into the second book in the series, Demigod 12, and then I’ll most likely go straight into the finale, Dome 6.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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