ARC Review: For the First Time, Again

This is the final book in Sylvain Neuvel's Take Them to the Stars trilogy. The series follows two ancient alien peoples who have been hiding on Earth for centuries. The Kibsu are searching for a home for their people, and pass on their secrets from mother to daughter. The Trackers seek to defeat the Kibsu's mission, and to do so they hunt the Kibsu down and kill them.

 The protagonist of Book 3 is Aster, a 12-year-old girl who doesn't know that she's a Kibsu. Aster's mother vanished when she was little. Her mother left behind a mysterious signal that could summon help from their home planet. When Aster undergoes a blood test that reveals her alien nature she becomes a target for the US military. She also shows up on the Tracker's radar. In a twist from the first two books the only one who can protect her is Samael, the last Tracker. Samael feels guilty for killing her mother and tries to suppress his violent urges. Together the two embark on a dangerous journey to find a way to contact their kind, involving a space probe to Jupiter.

For the First Time, Again continues the intriguing premise of the first two books. And, like its predecessors it has some thrilling action scenes. Without giving it all away I'll just say that this final book of the series doesn't seem to complete the setup of the first two books and feels incomplete. Compared to the first books, Aster is not as well developed as the Kibsu characters before her. She seems too naive and passive for her age. The plot is also full of coincidences and contrivances that strain credibility. The tone of the book is all over the map - switching from serious to humorous to sentimental. While that mix of sentiment was also present in the first two books it doesn't seem to work as well in this story. 

I agree with other reviews who say that the best parts of the plot springs from Neuvel's evident passion for space exploration. I particularly liked the long appendix that details the history and achievements of various real world space missions. Once again Neuvel has put in the extensive research and enthusiasm to ground his story in a near real world. Anyone interested in astronomy and space travel will find the whole series of interest.

Overall, this book is an entertaining conclusion to the trilogy that had a lot of potential but failed to satisfactorily complete it's setup. I do wonder if another book or books may be in the offing that build on this trilogy. 

Readers of Neuvel's previous books, and sci-fi lovers who enjoy stories that mix in real world history and actual space missions will likely enjoy this book. One caveat to those readers - the three books are not wholly self contained, and to enjoy Book 3 you need to have read the first two books.

RATING: Three and 1/2 Stars ⭐⭐⭐🌠

NOTE: I read an advanced review copy of the book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher Tor Publishing Group. The book was released to the public on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.