Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review: Starfinder by John Marco


There was no other word for it. Moth knew constellations were pictures, but these seemed alive to him, moving together, tumbling, running. And not just one big mess of stars, either. They were separate from each other, moving in their own particular dance. [pg 65]


Starfinder: A Skylords Novel by John Marco
DAW, May 2009 (ARE)
Fantasy (YA); 326 pgs


When I first began reading John Marco's Starfinder, I was instantly transported back into my own past. Waves of heat bouncing off the tarmac, I stood looking on in awe as the F-16 jets roared down the runway and into the sky. How many times did I gaze longingly at the poster in my bedroom of the Thunderbirds, wishing I could sit inside the cockpit of one of those jets and race through the sky? It was with those memories that Moth and I became acquainted.

Thirteen year old Moth is an orphan, poor and low in status. He knows his chances of becoming a Skyknight and being able to fly a Dragonfly are slim, and yet he dreams and holds on to the possibility that his dream can come true. When his friend and caretaker, Leroux, dies on the night of Moth's birthday, Moth's world is turned upside down. His friend left him with a mysterious gift and a mission that will forever change Moth's life.

Moth's friend Fiona is only a year older. She has shared similar pains--having lost her parents when she was young, just as Moth had. Unlike Moth, however, she comes from a powerful and wealthy family. Her grandfather, Governor Rendor, is the inventor of the Dragonflies and the airbuses as well as the leader of Calio, a city on the edge of their world. Fiona's grandfather is so caught up in his business affairs that he has no time for Fiona. Feeling abandoned and alone, she wants nothing more than to leave behind her grandfather and Calio.

Leroux and Rendor had been Eldrin Knights, heroes in their younger years. Upon Leroux's death, Rendor seeks out the gift Leroux left for Moth, understanding its full power, something a young Moth could never fully comprehend. His search turns into a chase, and Moth and Fiona, along with Leroux's beautiful kestrel, Lady Esme, decide to brave the unknown in an effort to save themselves and grant Leroux's dying wish.

The Reach, covered in mist, and what lies beyond are places of legends. It has long been forbidden to enter the Reach. The threat of being lost forever is very real. Leroux had been famous for his stories of the Reach and the lands on the other side, all of which were often disregarded as tall tales; the stories being full of mythical creatures such as dragons, mermaids, centaurs and the fearsome but beautiful Skylords. Moth and Fiona are about to find out for themselves whether the stories are true. What they find is both magical and dangerous. And not everything--or everyone--is what it may seem.

Moth may be a dreamer but he also has common sense. His trusting nature is not devoid of suspicion where suspicion is due. Fiona is intelligent and very strong willed. For Fiona, trust comes slowly and she does not easily rely on others. Her loyalty to her friend, Moth, is fierce though. The two balance each other out and make the perfect protagonists for this fantastical adventure story. Both characters grow over the course of the novel, not quite as innocent by the end as when their story began.

A minor but prominent character in the novel, Skyhigh, caught my fancy early on in the novel. His character was not developed to the degree that many of the others were--his personal story remains a mystery that I hope the author will explore further in a future book. The centaurs were also favorites of mine. They are a noble and intelligent species. Their relationship with the dragons especially had me curious, wondering if something in their past played a part in the status of their current relationship.

One of the aspects I enjoyed most about this novel was the ambiguity of some of the characters. It added an extra dimension to the novel that took it in unexpected directions. While on the surface this novel is light reading, there is an implied depth that grazes on more serious and darker themes. While an older audience may expect more, I personally felt this approach worked well for the type of book written.

I had never read a fantasy novel that had flying machines before, and so this was a new experience for me. Steampunk, I think my husband called it, or something along those lines. Calio certainly had a slightly modern feel to it, and it was, therefore, quite different from the more traditional fantasy world belonging to the Skylords. Seeing the two side by side made an interesting contrast.

While Young Adult (YA) fiction is not my first or second choice in reading material, it certainly has a way of finding itself on my reading list often enough. And although I may not always care for much in the way of YA fiction, I do enjoy those with fantasy themes more often than not (Harry Potter and the Farworld series come instantly to mind). In the case of Starfinder, it is a young adult novel and it reads for a younger audience; however, that never bothered me. I had a good time while reading the book. I love a good fantasy tale, and, while I enjoy long epics, it was nice to settle in with a fantasy novel that was a bit shorter, especially right now with everything else I have going on in my life. The story moves quickly and there was never a dull moment. As I read, I could easily picture a librarian sitting in the school library, reading Starfinder to a group of students, much like my own school librarian used to do for my class. I do think that adults might enjoy it too.

Starfinder
is the first in what promises to be a fun-filled and exciting fantasy trilogy. For those concerned about starting a trilogy with only the first book yet published, do not fret. Starfinder stands well on its own.

As an aside, I never did get to fly an F-16. Back then, my gender, poor eye sight, and height would have kept me from being a fighter pilot anyhow. Even so, as I got older, my dreams shifted and other ones became more prominent. My calling lie elsewhere.


You can learn more about John Marco and his books at the author's website and his blog, Bastion.


Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge, New Authors Challenge, 1st in a Series Challenge


Many thanks to the author for giving me this opportunity to read and early copy Starfinder!

24 comments:

  1. I love thrill rides, and have always secrectly wanted to ride in one of those too. I think you can pay money and do that now, can't you? Anyway, what an amazing sounding book. I'll seriously consider it for one of my read-out-loud books to my kids!

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  2. I'm glad to hear all those things! I have this book sitting on my shelf waiting for review. I hope I will like it too, I really like steampunk. And I agree that for some reason YA fantasy is the most appealing type of YA. I'm not sure why!

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  3. I received a copy of this in the mail the other day! Now, to find time to read it!

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  4. This sounds really good. I must admit I quite like the YA genre it has developed in leaps in bounds from what it used to be.

    I wanted to say thank you for all your support since I started my blog. I have awarded you the Splash award on my blog here. Hope you like it.

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  5. Thanks for this review! YA fantasy is one of my top fav. genres and I have this in my pile to read pretty soon. Now I'm looking forward to it even more!

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  6. It's good to see anything with "star" in the title as a YA book--there's been something of a dearth of good SF/Fantasy lately. Steampunk does seem to have reinvigorated the genre a little bit.

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  7. I'll be reviewing this one in a few weeks as part of a tour. I love YA fantasy, so I'm sure to love this one.

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  8. I've read a few reviews on this one. It does sound like a book that would be out of my comfort zone but that's usually a good idea to try it. I do like a good fantasy book once in a while.

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  9. Sounds like a great book for an escape. Sorry you couldn't become an F16 pilot. I know how you feel. I never got to be an astronaut.

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  10. My Dad was in the Air Force and later in the Air National Guard. I'm so familiar with the F-16 experience! I watched them take off and land from Luke AFB and, like you, dreamt of someday flying one. Alas, being short and short-sighted nipped that idea pretty quickly. I'd love to get to be on an aircraft carrier and watch them take off and land from that -- what a rush that would be.

    Oh, great book review too! (I get easily distracted from the point sometimes.)

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  11. I don't read as many YA books as I probably should. I'm reminded of a quote by C. S. Lewis who says, “I am almost in­clined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.”

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  12. Funnily enough flying doesn't scare me too too badly but I really hate it because every time I've boarded a plane once we take off (and at least 5 hours after we land) if feels like my head is stuffed with cotton. Doesn't matter how many times I pop my ears it still doesn't help :*(

    Love the description of this! Sounds like a great adventure :) I read a lot more YA lately.

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  13. I'm "this" close to finishing Starfinder but I can say it's been a fun book to read so far! And, it's definitely outside of my comfort zone too :)

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

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  14. My son read Starfinder and absolutely loved it, but I'm still waiting to find time to squeeze it in. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Sometimes the kiddo likes things that aren't quite my speed, but he thinks I'll like it, too. Maybe I need a weekend by myself with a pile of contraband unscheduled reading material. :)

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  15. Sounds like a great adventure read to me, Wendy!

    I'm going to check out this book besides the others on my wishlist during my next trip to the bookstore. ;)

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  16. I just love this cover. It makes the book look very exciting. I love YA. Glad you enjoyed it Wendy.

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  17. Sandy - I hadn't heard that it was possible to pay for a flight--I imagine the price for something like that would be way out of my ballpark. I'll just settle for admiring afar. :-)

    I hope you do read this one!

    Meghan - I hope you like it when you get to it. I think YA fantasy is the most appealing of YA fiction because it's magical. Okay, so that was pretty lame. LOL

    Kelly - I know what you mean. So many books and so little time!

    Caspette - Thank you so much for the award! You've done a great job with your blog.

    Nicola - I hope you enjoy it, Nicola. I had a lot of fun reading it.

    Jeanne - It does seem like there has been an upswing of YA fantasy, especially of the paranormal variety--at least that I've noticed. YA fiction isn't a genre I follow too closely and so I imagine there's a lot out there I haven't yet heard of.

    Beth - I look forward to reading your thoughts on it, Beth!

    Dar - Sometimes it does pay to step outside of our comfort zones, doesn't it?

    Jaimie - It is so good to see you again! I've missed you. I'm behind in my blog visits, but I did notice you have a couple of new posts up. I'll stop by soon to catch up.

    One of my brother's childhood friends really wanted to be an astronaut. I wonder what he's up to now.

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  18. Terri - They're amazing jets. Oh! That would be so cool, to watch them take off from a carrier!

    Lisa - That's a great quote! :-)

    Jen - Ugh! That is a problem. I've had problems in recent years with my ears when I fly. It wasn't always that way. I think my sinus problems have gotten worse.

    Iliana - I am glad you are enjoying it, Iliana. I can't wait to read your thoughts on it.

    Nancy - I am glad to hear your son enjoyed this one, Nancy. Hopefully you will too!

    A weekend of reading sounds so nice!

    Melody - It was a lot of fun. I think you would enjoy this one, Melody.

    Eliza - It is a nice cover, isn't it? I really like it too. :-)

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  19. Alice - And you shouldn't resist this one. :-)

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  20. I truly enjoyed reading this review and getting to know the story through your eyes. I tend to be drawn more to YA so this type of book would be the norm and not the exception in my tastes of book. Sounds like a great one to pick up and to tell my students about!! We're (the kids and I) always looking for the next coolest book to read!!

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  21. Staci - Thank you so much, Staci! That means a lot to me. I do think this would be a good story for you and your kids to give a try. I hope you do get a chance to read it!

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  22. I loved your review, Wendy! I really liked the ambiguity of some of the characters too.

    YA fantasy used to be all the YA I'd read, but realistic YA has actually been growing on me. I blame bloggers and the fact that they introduced me to authors such as John Green :P But in any case, fantasy is and will always be my first love.

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  23. Nymeth - Thank you. I really like urban fantasy too. You can almost imagine that it could really happen. :-) I haven't read anything by John Green, but I know he's quite popular these days.

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