The Way to the Stars is the fourth original novel based upon the television series Star Trek: Discovery, written by Una McCormack, published in January 2019.


Despite being an inexperienced Starfleet cadet, Sylvia Tilly became essential to the USS Discovery finding its way back home from the mirror universe. But how did she find that courage? From where did she get that steel? Who nurtured that spark of brilliance? The Way to the Stars recounts for fans everywhere the untold story of Tilly's past.
It’s not easy being sixteen, especially when everyone expects great things from Tilly. It's even harder when her mother and father are Federation luminaries, not to mention pressing her to attend one of the best schools that the Federation has to offer. Tilly wants to achieve great things—even though she hasn't quite worked out how to do that or what it is she wants to do. But this year, everything will change for Tilly, as she about to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime—an adventure that will take her ever closer to the stars…


Sylvia Tilly lives with her Granna Adèle and step-grandfather Gabriel Xavier Quinn in Paris. Her mother, Siobhan, is a rising member of the Federation Security Council with little time but grand plans for her daughter; her (divorced) father, Lieutenant Iain Tilly, is often out of contact on a year-long xenoarchaeology mission aboard the USS Dorothy Garrod. Sylvia’s grades in math and science are exceptional and her recent paper on astromycology (a favorite hobby) received top marks, but nothing is ever good enough for her mother. Siobhan always favors criticism over praise, and she decries Sylvia’s interests and other less-than-perfect (but still good) grades rather than wishing her daughter a happy birthday. Chastened by her own mother, Siobhan treats Sylvia to a day-trip to London, though she again overrides Sylvia’s interests with her own: clothes shopping and the beauty salon rather than museums and the theatre. She also declares that Sylvia will be sent to a prestigious boarding school on Talaris IV, to prepare for her career in the diplomatic corps. Sylvia’s cowed objections to both the off-world school and choice of career go completely ignored.

Sylvia’s grandparents escort her on the week-long journey to Talaris; Siobhan’s schedule is too full for her to get away. Her roommate, Risera Igova, is friendly and welcoming though also somewhat messy. Sylvia begins going by the name “Tilly” and adjusts well to her new environment, earning good grades and joining an Arixxian rowing team. Unhappy with the school’s woefully small STEM program and seeking like-minded friends, she starts an engineering club, and impresses other students with her practical knowledge of technology. During the mid-term holiday, she sadly finds Risera’s visiting family to be more interested in networking with Siobhan than in befriending Tilly herself. She is also instructed by her mother to drop her ridiculous extracurricular activities in favor of perfecting her already remarkable grades. Siobhan is later convinced to relent and allow a single club; Tilly drops engineering rather than rowing. The remainder of the school term is made more stressful with preparations for a mock summit. Each student must conduct a presentation on a Federation member world, complete with native dress and language. After exhaustive research, Tilly chooses the little-known Elisurians, who speak in melodic quadratic equations. She pours herself into the presentation, intent on a perfect grade, while also studying for final exams in each of her regular classes. Overstressed and exhibiting the worst of her mother’s personality traits, she alienates her friends, drives Risera out of their room, comes in second place in a rowing race, and flubs her presentation. Having failed so spectacularly, she vows that she’s done with the school.

Using the end-of-term student exodus, and her own technical genius to hack the school’s security system, Tilly runs away, though without a real plan in place. Using a fake ID, she boards the transport vessel Constance Markievicz en route out of the Federation. Tilly’s disappearance, especially with regard to her mother’s status, is initially feared as a kidnapping, and scrambles Federation and local security across several worlds. On her first day “on the lam,” her naïveté results in the theft of her luggage and ID. Unable to debark at the next port of Oyseen without being discovered, and unwilling to give up immediately, she hides aboard the ship. Hunger and boredom soon get the better of her; she ventures out of her cabin to steal food and effects several small repairs aboard the dilapidated ship, exposing her to the ship’s engineer, Salla Mannin. Tilly’s self-righteous teenage attitude does not go far with Captain Maris, but Salla finds it both amusing and familiar, and she stands up for Tilly. Maris agrees to let Tilly off at the next port (rather than putting her out an airlock), having her pay her passage as Salla’s apprentice. Along with her formidable technical skills, Salla shares her history, having fled a long war on her homeworld of Leyta at Tilly’s age, helping the young woman put her own life and problems into perspective. Though this adventure lasts only a few days, Tilly learns a lot before she is put off the ship at the rough world of Zymne.

The authorities of the resource-poor planet insist that Tilly, under the alias of Zoe Trace, prove her worth in order to remain on Zymne. Emboldened by her minor successes with Salla and soothed by working with her hands, she offers to repair any broken equipment they have. Her quick work impresses the friendly officers, who offer to set her up with lodging and a job within a day, though they question why a privileged Federation girl would want to stay on this backwater. However, her promising fresh start is short-lived as Adèle and Quinn track her down, followed soon after by Iain. Simultaneously relieved and irate, they recognize how desperate Tilly must have felt to run away, how untenable the current arrangement is, and all three adults support her when she faces her mother. They confront Siobhan about her emotional bullying and inability to listen, prompting her to stand down. Iain convinces Captain Yindi Holden (and Siobhan) to allow Tilly to remain aboard the Dorothy Garrod with him.

Though annoyed at having her ship pulled off its schedule to retrieve Tilly, Holden recognizes the girl’s abilities and fosters a productive environment for her, setting her up with an unofficial apprenticeship in engineering. To her delight, Tilly finds that she finally fits in on the ship of “intelligent eccentrics” and enjoys quality time with her loving, reasonable father. She reevaluates her poor opinions of Starfleet, coming to terms with its part in her father’s long absence, though she also comes to appreciate the dangers. A shuttle accident threatens Iain’s life, though everything works out in the end, and the pair grow even closer. Iain helps Tilly to see her mother as a person rather than super-human, and that the divorce had nothing to do with Tilly; her parents were just too different to remain together. Later, Tilly nags her father and Holden to allow her to join the archaeological survey on Vesnoy. The landing party discovers that the seemingly abandoned world is still inhabited as an alien form screams at them and the ground swallows up the team; Tilly alone escapes, via emergency transport. Aboard the ship, the crew works to figure out their next move when Tilly recognizes similarities between the alien screams and the musical Elisurian language. She tweaks the UT to allow for such alien communication and convinces Holden to let her return to the planet, effectively making first contact on her own. Greatly impressed, Holden offers to let Tilly remain aboard longer than planned, with a specialized education plan and Holden’s endorsement to attend Starfleet Academy. Siobhan explodes, refusing to “further indulge any of Sylvia’s nonsense” and reverting to her attitude of total control. With Iain’s support, Tilly refuses, insisting that she’s not going to become a diplomat. She accepts Holden’s offer without Siobhan’s blessing, finally seizing her own future.



Talaris IV residents
EriselRisera IgovaKeithSemettStavathSylvia TillyXoha
Constance Markievicz personnel
Salla ManninReah Maris
USS Dorothy Garrod personnel
Mei DomotoEtraxisYindi HoldenJamesonNishAndy PattersonSunitaIain TillySylvia Tilly (Zoe Trace) • Thritte Zh'iqyliq
USS Discovery personnel
Michael BurnhamSylvia Tilly
Other characters
Cesel IgovaIbas IgovaNataliaOrlotzAdèle QuinnGabriel Xavier QuinnSiobhan
Referenced only 
David BowieDorothy GarrodFiona MackaySeanWilliam ShakespeareAnthony SchoenbergThomas TallisByth Th'vaales

Starships and vehicles

bicycleboatcarConstance Markievicz (freighter) • USS DiscoveryUSS Dorothy Garrod (science vessel) • passenger linershuttlecraft


Earth (Midi; Paris, FranceThe Ritz Hotel, London) • TalarisTalaris IVVaretisVesnoyZymne
Referenced only 
ArixusCasaris IV • Earth (Broadway, New York CityBritish Museum; Natural History Museum; National Portrait Gallery; Science Museum; Shakespeare's Globe, London • Cairngorms, ScotlandMexico CityRomeVersailles) • Estrevis IIGetrexi systemKtarisLeytaMarsMetlis IIINetur systemOyseenRi'tisRisa

Races and cultures

AndorianArixxianBolianHumanLeyta nativeRisianRi'tis nativeTrillVesnoyanVulcanZymnean
Referenced only 
Elisurian • Human (English) • K'la'bisiMaltrisian

States and organizations

Federation Diplomatic CorpsFederation SecurityFederation Security CouncilStarfleetUnited Federation of Planets
Referenced only 
Bolian Export OfficeSecond Emmessinian EmpireUniversity of CambridgeUniversity of WollongongUniversity of X'lis

Ranks and titles

2ICagentaideanthropologistapprenticearistocratastromycologistathletebabysitterbutlercadetcaptainChair of the Federation Security Councilchief engineercouncilordiplomatdrummerengineerflyergymnasthairdresserinterninventorjailerknightlieutenantlordmagicianmerchantmycologistnarratologistnunplaywrightprisonerqueenrefugeeresearch assistantresearch directorrowerscientistseniorsocial scientiststatisticianstylistsurgeonteachertransporter chieftutorwaiterxenoarchaeologist

Science and technology

3D printerairairlockalcoholallergyarchaeologyasthmaastromycologyballisticsbinary starblenderblood pressurebonecentimetercholesterolchronometerclimatecommon coldcommunicationscommunicatordata analysisdata banksdata slatedrilleggemergency transporter armbandfinger nailfood slotformulafuelgeneticshairheartholodeckinteractive displayinteractive exhibitionharmonicskilometerlife supportlightmathematicsmechanicsmelodic quadratic equationmoldmolecular gastronomymotormycologynavigation systemODN wirepaddpathogenpathogenic fungiplanetplanetary defense systempollenprogrammingprompterpsychologyquantum mechanicssamovarsciencescience projectsecurity scannerskullsociologyspacespannerstarstar systemstatisticssweattechnologytemperaturetimetoothtoxintrackertracking devicetracking systemtransportertreadmilltricorderuniversal translatorventilation systemvirusweatherxeno-narratologyxenoarcheologyzero gravity

Other references

alarmandrogyneapplicationapprenticeshipArixxian rowingarmorartifactautumnbagbathroombedbedroombeerbirthdayblanketboard-gameboarding schoolboardinghousebookboxbreakfastbridgebrochurebulkheadcaftancakecapital citycenturychampagnechocolatechocolate moussechoral musiccityclassroomcleaning cycleclosetclothingcoffeecollegeCommand Training Programcommendationcommunication consolecompact mirrorconsulateconurbationcorkcorridorcountrycountry housecourt martialcroissantcroquetcrystalcultcupcurrycutlerydaydecadedeitydeskdessertdiagnosticdig sitedinnerdivorcedoctoratedormitorydragondressdrumeconomicsElisurian languageembassyempireengineeringengineering clubEnglish languageessayextracurricular activityfactoryfake IDfilmfirst contactfirst contact protocolflowerflutefoodFrench languagefruitGallic languagegamegardengloveGMTgolfgraduationgreasegroundedgymhandbaghandkerchiefhangarhathigh heelhillwalkinghockey stickholidayhomeworkhomeworldhot chocolatehot saucehotelhourhouseIDinvestigationjet beadjokekidnappingkitchenK'la'bisian narrativeknifelacrosselakelanguagelanding partylatinumlaundrylawnleaflibrarylinenliteratureLong Warlubricantmacaronmaintenance kitmakeupThe Man Who Fell to Earthmapmeatmedievalmeditationmenumetalminutemirrormock summitmoneymonthmoon festivalmosaicmountaineeringmovie nightmugMunromuseummushroommusicmusic roomNapoleonic Warsnest eggnetworkingnews digestnews feednutoarofficeonionoperapajamaspanelpaperpaperworkparent-teacher conferencepartyparty hatparty popperpastrypendantpeppermint teapetit fourphilosophyphoto opportunitypillowpipeplatepolitical sciencepoliticspolyphonypopcornportraitposterpresentationprofessorshippropagandaprotocolprovincepublicationquartersrainration bookready roomred alertreligionreport cardrestaurantrésuméretirementroberoom servicerowingrowing clubsabbaticalsandwichsauceschoolsconescriptsemesterseminarshacklesshirtshoeshuttle baysickbaysilksoapsoap operasoiréespicy teastonestudent clubspaceportSpace Oddityspaghetti carbonarasportspringsterilization cyclestorystretcherstring quartetstudy groupsuitesummerSundaysweatshirtswimmingtabletableclothtasselteatea partyteacupThe Tempesttennis courttheatre playtoasttooltoolboxtourismtoweltowntransporter roomtravel hubtraytreetrunkumamiuniversityvacationvacuum flaskvasevillagevineyardviolavotewarwaterweekwhistlewindow baywinewinterwitchcraftwoodwork permityearyeast



  • At this point in time, the Federation consists of 82 member worlds.
  • Risera’s father is a diplomat assigned to Ktaris.
  • The long-lived and ancient Vesnoyans once ruled an interstellar empire, but withdrew to isolation on their homeworld long ago.




published order
Previous novel:
Fear Itself
Discovery unnumbered novels Next novel:
The Enterprise War
Previous novel:
Enigma Tales
Novels by:
Una McCormack
Next novel:
The Last Best Hope
chronological order

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