Riveting, relevant, and surprisingly romantic, this sci-fi space adventure switches perspectives between a young female soldier and a human-like AI who team up for a dangerous mission. Author Claudia Gray is adept at sci-fi and romance, and she continues to merge the usually incongruous genres well in this opposites-attract, slow-burning love story that unfolds as a tale of escape, adventure, and self-discovery. Gray also explores issues of faith and discrimination. Noemi, like all Genesis-born, has been raised to believe "mechs" (AI) are soulless abominations used by amoral Earthlings, but Abel is alternately snarky, smug, arrogant, funny, truthful, and kind. Noemi and Abel's banter is sarcastic and humorous, even as Abel's primary directive is to follow her orders. So he makes her rethink her stance on AI and whether he's more human or machine, while she makes him rethink his programming and feel.
Gray laudably manages to make Defy the Stars diverse -- Noemi is of Latino and Polynesian descent, Abel is white and speaks with a faint British accent like his maker, and supporting characters range in race, ethnicity, and religion. Noemi is a particularly multifaceted character; it's easy to see what Abel finds remarkable in her. And Abel may look perfect, but looks aren't dwelled upon, since Noemi (and all Genesis residents) are described like a mash-up of Veronica Roth's Abnegation and Dauntless: self-sacrificing, faithful, and slightly puritanical but also brave and ready to defend their homeland at all costs. Noemi and Abel's story is so compelling, readers will be eager to find out what happens in the next installment.