Save one world. Doom her own. From the acclaimed author of The Deep Sky comes a thrilling anti-colonial space heist to save an alien civilization.

Violence, colonization, war, torture, pandemic, infertility.

Maya Hoshimoto was once the best art thief in the galaxy. For ten years, she returned stolen artifacts to alien civilizations—until a disastrous job forced her into hiding. Now she just wants to enjoy a quiet life as a graduate student of anthropology, but she’s haunted by persistent and disturbing visions of the future.

Then an old friend comes to her with a job she can’t refuse: find a powerful object that could save an alien species from extinction. Except no one has seen it in living memory, and they aren’t the only ones hunting for it.

Maya sets out on a breakneck quest through a universe teeming with strange life and ancient ruins. But the farther she goes, the more her visions cast a dark shadow over her team of friends new and old. Someone will betray her along the way. Worse yet, in choosing to save one species, she may condemn humanity and Earth itself.

Don't just take our word for it...

“Kitasei’s outstanding sophomore outing clears the high bar she set in The Deep Sky, combining a high-stakes space adventure with exquisitely crafted worldbuilding and plausibly imagined interspecies communication.”
– Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Come to The Stardust Grail for Indiana Jones-style outer space heist adventure, stay for the sensitively drawn characters and thoughtful exploration of other forms of life far beyond our own—Yume Kitasei’s second novel is an engaging, fascinating story that you don’t want to miss.”
– Veronica Roth, New York Times bestselling author of Chosen Ones

“Broad in scope, covering everything from the rise and fall of alien civilizations to what it means to be a person, this is a luminous work, vacillating between the highs and lows of human experience and how they might translate across alien worlds.”
– Kirkus, starred review

Taste the very first page

The largest private collection of rare artifacts from other worlds could be found in central New Jersey at Princeton University, and if anyone knew Maya Hoshimoto was a thief, they wouldn’t have let her anywhere near there.

Fortunately, no one did.

And anyway, she wasn’t a thief anymore, just a thirty-one-year-old graduate student entering her second year toward a PhD in comparative cultures—who happened to know a lot about foreign artifacts.

It was an excessively pretty end of summer, the kind where the birds were chirping and a few flowers hung drunk from their stems, but the air had just an edge of premonition to it. For Maya, who had grown up off-world under a dome, weather of any kind still felt like a gift.

Maya wandered into the subbasement room of the Dr. Frank R. Humbert Alien Artifact Collection and Rare Books Archives, where staff were unboxing recent acquisitions. Her friend Pickle, one of the assistant archivists, looked up and grinned at her. “How do you always know when we’ve got a delivery? I didn’t even know you were capable of waking up before ten.”

“Obituaries,” Maya said, then realized that maybe this wasn’t the kind of thing a graduate student paid attention to: that the grandson of a famous explorer, Dr. Nkosi, had died in his bathtub a month ago. She added: “I saw the van outside.”

Most material ended up sitting in storage for a couple of decades, but the Nkosi Foundation had dropped a hefty monetary donation to ensure that these items were given priority treatment.

Maya watched them remove artifacts from the boxes onto two long tables lined with black velvet. Her studies included an internship with the archives, which had a special relationship with the Department of Comparative Cultures. And while the pay was ridiculously low, she…