Stellar Instinct – Review

Author – Jonathan Nevair

Pages – 332

Genre – Spy-fi Space Thriller

Publishing Information – 22 November 2022, Self Published


The One Sentence Review

Stellar Instinct is a blast of fun and adventure that serves as a perfect way to let off the steam of heavier-going books whilst enjoying intelligent ideas and a great story.

The Blurb

A secret agent. A gaming mastermind. Two players in a dangerous competition blurring the boundaries of entertainment and reality.

Mysterious signals pulse from an icy planet in a remote star system. GAM-OPs wants answers. Enter Lilline Renault, secret agent extraordinaire. To ordinary citizens she’s Keely Larkin, an adventure company guide with a flair for the daring and a penchant for writing trite poetry. Lilline’s at the top of the spy game, but publishing her literary work is proving harder than saving the galaxy.

When the mission uncovers a dastardly plan threatening billions of lives, Lilline leaps into action. Verses flow as she rockets through space, dons cunning disguises, and infiltrates enemy territory with an arsenal of secret gadgets. But to prevent the whims of a self-obsessed entrepreneur from turning the galaxy into a deadly playground means beating him at his own game. Lilline will need her best weapon to stand a fighting chance: her instinct.

Please visit Escapist Tours to see reviews from other bloggers on the tour and the central hub for the book tour of Stellar Instinct!


For the reader who only has ten seconds to decide if they want to read this book or not… it has all of these things and more:

  • Fun, easy to read story
  • Enough twists and turns to keep you engaged
  • A main character that is instantly likeable
  • A badass grumpy Granny
  • Different species of people
  • Great locations
  • A sprinkling of humour
  • Interesting characters
  • Page-turning splendour

If you have a little more time, allow me to expand…

I really enjoyed Jonathan Nevair’s completed Wind Tide trilogy. It’s a series that is so interesting and unique. Despite all three being books I enjoyed greatly, I’ll be the first to admit that they might not be as enjoyable for every reader. Politics and diplomacy take centre stage through prose that is intelligent, beautifully written but also at times can come across a little academic. It means that Wind Tide can feel heavier-going than some reads and requires more energy from the reader. You might recommend it highly to a seasoned sci-fi reader for example, but probably hold off if it was somebody new to the genre looking for a book they could enjoy without too much knowledge of sci-fi or politics.

Stellar Instinct however, is a book that will be throughout enjoyable to a much wider range of people.

It’s fantastic that an author who wrote by all accounts a fairly serious trilogy has been able to come straight back out with an entertaining spy-fi book that actually had vibes of Austin Powers and Sean Connery’s bond – minus the sexual innuendo. It’s not a comedy though and Nevair has tuned back in to his bright imagination with a great plot that keeps you invested with some twists and turns and a willingness for the main character, Lilline, to succeed. The fact she’s working against an egotistical and self important entrepreneur in Mavron Nave is very topical and will make most readers want to cheer her on further.

The characters are really enjoyable to get to know and have their own quirks. The Preacher is a fun enemy who acts as a sort of Lieutenant to Nave. Lilline’s boss, Asher Lauden at first appears like he is just going to be one of those annoying superiors putting a stop to all the fun but he actually really comes into his own and becomes a really interesting character. One of my favourite parts of the book is a secret he reveals to Lilline later in the book about a storage facility they are in…

Another highlight is Lilline’s Grandmother Kissy, an ex-spy with all of her sass, badass personality and quick wits remaining who gives us some amusing moments!

Poetry is a theme in this book, with Lilline in a poetry group in which she is striving to write something she will be remembered by, with a couple of rejections coming at inopportune moments! Her attempts to create poetic meaning at various points adds an extra bit of personality to the book that does actually, rather cleverly, become significant to the story. Even if it hadn’t played a role in the plot, it’s little things like this that add a unique character to the book and in my view makes books in general more memorable.

Memorable too, as always, is the author’s ability to quickly conjure up imagery that lets you imagine a location, such as the volcano-jungle contrast of planet Hesh-9 or a view of the cosmos.

Vibrant red, blue, and green lights danced overhead on structural supports running in a complex geometric pattern, casting a kaleidoscope effect.

You get an immediate sense that the author has had fun writing this book (even from the play on words in the book’s title) and that feeling does not abate as the story progresses. This was an opportunity to be a little more relaxed (though I’m not sure authors ever truly relax) – and write the fun, fast paced novel that was probably a welcome tonic after writing a more emotionally taxing and layered trilogy beforehand. Indeed, with the pressures of life in general and the majority of fantasy and sci-fi reads being quite heavy going books, Stellar Instinct was a real palate cleanser and gives the reader the opportunity to blow off some steam from some of those books with something that’s just so readable. The author has somehow achieved the feat of maintaining his wonderful prose whilst also making it lighter and easier to read – a real skill. It made this the book I’ve found easiest to fly through over the whole year.

Nevair has created something that could conceivably be a fun outing or the start of a wider series in a world that has already become really interesting to me. One thing I really liked was the introduction of different species of people living together within the world including non-humans:

  • The blue-skinnes Kreelis, who wear barometric bands across their heads to regulate their blood pressure in order to survive outside of their homeworld.
  • The muscular-built Rasps, squat figures with a serpentine neck ending in a head the size of your first, with one eye.
  • The winged Oltari. Oltaris mostly use their double set of wings to get around hovering not far off the ground, with their legs of little use. They make little sounds when aroused, angry or excited which I think is such a fun idea – but one I’m glad is fictional and doesn’t apply to us!

The human variants are also really well imagined:

  • The Gej-ti, who have translucent skin and a gill flap on their necks. They evolved on a planet in near-darkness long ago.
  • The Froo, an amphibian-like variant with black rings on green skin and long, 6 knuckled fingers. They have moist skin and cold blood. The typical humans can’t even touch Froo without causing their kind gastrointestinal issues.
  • Dendari, a hairy and fanged variant adapted to the harsh icy planet of Frebu.

There are also animals and biomes bringing to life Nevair’s worlds here, a highlight being the radioactive Bukki tiger from the Red Zone of Hesh-9. The zone is like a jungle Chernobyl, with rumours of mutations to anything that survived the initial nuclear spill covering five thousand kilometers.

Something I’d like to mention before rounding off my review, but can’t really talk loads about is the implementation of augmented and virtual reality. What I can say is that Jonathan Nevair does this really intelligently and inventively – trust him to deliver, even if at first you’re confused. Again though, the author’s intelligent ideas and the way he paints these ideas onto the page marks his work out and makes it memorable and striking, rather than being just another book to forget about within a few months. What I really love about this book is all these introductions of creative ideas and story elements whilst maintaining the pacing at all times, so it’s a relatively quick read that you enjoy the whole way through, whilst not being so fleeting that it’s a sort of throwaway. I just want to read the next Spy-fi adventure now!!

I’ve got a feeling Jonathan Nevair is going to be an author delighting us with original ideas and exciting stories for many years to come…

“It’s a different approach to intelligence. We call it many things. A ‘hunch’ or our ‘gut’ telling us something.”

“It’s instinct,” Lilline said.

Thankyou to Jonathan Nevair for sending me a copy of this book (the paperback colours really pop out!) and to Escapist Book Tours for including me on their tour schedule.

Enter the giveaway below

Good luck!

Starts: December 5, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: December 11, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

About the Author

Jonathan Nevair is a science fiction writer and, as Dr. Jonathan Wallis, an art historian and Professor of Art History at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia. After two decades of academic teaching and publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction. Jonathan grew up on Long Island, NY but now resides in southeast Pennsylvania with his wife and rambunctious mountain feist, Cricket.

You can find him online at and on Twitter as @JNevair.


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