Jinto Lin finds this out the hard way when, as a child, his home world is conquered by the powerful Abh Empire: the self-proclaimed Kin of the Stars, and rulers of vast swaths of the known universe. As a newly-appointed member of the Abh’s imperial aristocracy, Jinto must learn to forge his own destiny in the wider universe while bearing burdens he never asked for, caught between his surface-dweller “Lander” heritage and the byzantine culture of the Abh, of which he is now nominally a member. A chance meeting with the brave-but-lonely Apprentice Starpilot Lafier aboard the Patrol Ship Goslauth will lead them both headfirst down a path of galaxy-spanning intrigue and warfare that will forever change the fate of all of humankind.
It's refreshing to read a light novel not encrusted with 20 years of bad fannish in-jokes. However, Hiroyuki Morioka's Crest of the Stars was also written at a time when linguistics was a writing craze on both sides of the Pacific Rim, so the book serves as much as a crash course on the Abh language as it does a story. The J-Novel Club translator uses an interesting strategy to minimize this, by bolding sections of the English text when corresponding Abh words have already been introduced to the reader. It's still jarring, but not so much as the same text half-written in another language. A reader should not have to hold degrees in neologistic linguistics, history, psychology or anthropology in order to understand the story. Fortunately, once the exposition-heavy introductions are complete, the interruptions settle to a more manageable rate. But that's still one massive hurdle, one that many readers might balk at.
Crest of the Stars is the first third of a novel split into three books, and, in the 1990s, needed three years to find a publisher willing to take a chance on space opera at a time when space opera was a dying trend. The extra time was spent in refining the prose and the story, creating a space opera tale that is not just a good light novel, but one that can take its place among the better space operas world-wide. It helps that Morioka was a science fiction short story writer, not a fannish writer clinging to trends and in-jokes, and, with the exception of a Tom Swiftie or two, his prose, even when translated, is up to Western standards. This is aided by a rare but consistent use of dialogue tags, which more light novels should employ. Because of all this effort spent on the text, Crest of the Stars can be recommended as a proper science fiction novel, not just a young adult pulp.