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The Fated Sky, A Lady Astronaut Novel (Book Review)

The Fated Sky is a rare thing — a sequel that is just as wonderful as its predecessor. Dr. Elma York is a relatable, multi-faceted, brilliant character who fills the book with life. The cast of supporting characters remains just as compelling, and Kowal treats their trials and tribulations with care, showing the individual experiences of traveling millions of miles from home. I love this series and it’s my deep hope that we’ve not seen the last of it.


Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor, August 2018


The Lady Astronaut is back! After taking up a post on the first Lunar base, Dr. Elma York is assigned as a crew member to the first mission to Mars. The crew experiences excitement, tragedy and the mundanity of a multi-year spaceflight. Together, they hurtle toward Mars intent on extending the reach of mankind.



Dr. York is further cemented as one of my favorite literary characters of all time. There are so many layers to her, and they all conflict on a daily basis, making her the complex person she is. She’s a brilliant mathematician and pilot. She struggles with anxiety and insecurities, working overtime to overcome them. She’s a loving wife who struggles with leaving her husband while at the same time refusing to give up on her dreams. She’s a powerful role model for millions of young girls and I love getting to spend time with her in these books.


Kowal presents an accurate, albeit heartbreaking, portrayal of the prejudices against people of color and women during the 1950s and 60s. There are moments of fury in the same vein as those seen in the first book. This time, they’re millions of miles from Earth, trapped in small spaces with people who see them as less than. Even though these women are total badasses, equally brilliant to everyone else on the mission, they are relegated to doing household work on the ships for the majority of their time. It’s infuriating, second only to the mistreatment of the people of color on the mission.

To counteract these prejudices, Kowal has also created an alternate history where marginalized people were able to rise up and take the positions they deserved on this important mission. I found myself smiling ear-to-ear with the advances made by the end of the novel and the inroads they made toward combating prejudices back on Earth.


The Fated Sky is a portrait of space travel and the effects it can have on a small crew. Most of the crew members have known each other for years, but preparing to be stuck in tight quarters isn’t something you can truly prepare for. I found the casualness of their daily routines so interesting and compelling. They have their fights and their frustrations but, overall, they work together to solve problems and to survive the daily struggles of being away from home, mixed with the possibility of never returning. They care deeply for one another, as we see in the moments of tragedy.


Tragedy plays a bigger part in this second installment. With such a long journey and so many things that could go wrong, some things inevitably do. Kowal covers these delicately, presenting moments of feeling that were beautiful in their own right. I found myself tearing up during one scene, where the crew bands together to grieve. It’s the imagery of crying in low gravity that makes these scenes so emotional. Tears aren’t shed and forgotten — they surround a person, showing a heartbreaking embodiment of their grief.


This is the true heart of The Lady Astronaut series. Most science fiction books take place in space, but the story of first getting there is long gone. Kowal shows us how exciting space is. We see the wonder in every word, the joy of discovering a new world where humanity can thrive. These astronauts are professionals who have trained their whole lives and even they tear up at the sights surrounding them. These novels are a love letter to space travel and a future that humankind will hopefully be able to experience.


Space Travel, Moon, Mars, Colonization, Spaceship, Alternate History

Interested in more books like The Fated Sky? Check out our book reviews here.

Photo by Juskteez Vu on Unsplash

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