A huge thank you to Trish Collins and John Marco for asking me to be part of this tour!
Book One of the Skylords series
Tags: MG, YA, steampunk, fantasy, dragons, war, aviation
Thirteen-year-old Moth is only a penniless orphan boy, but he has always dreamed of flying, which in the mountainous city of Calio is the dream to go for. Moth lives with Lady Esme, a bird, and Leroux, an old Eldrin Knight who tells stories of mysterious creatures beyond the Reach, the fog-covered land that stretches infinitely to Calio’s north.
No one ever took Leroux’s stories seriously, least of all Moth—until the day Leroux dies and Moth finds out that Lady Esme is not a bird at all, but rather an enslaved Skylord, one of the mysterious but powerful creatures that are rumored to rule the Reach. Along with his friend Fiona, Moth and Lady Esme escape into the Reach with the Starfinder, an instrument of terrible power that the Skylords once used to wield power over everyone in the Reach.
They intend to help Esme turn back into Skylord form, but things are not that easy. Fiona’s grandfather, Rendor, comes after them for the Starfinder, too. Moth, Fiona, and Lady Esme encounter a great number of startling creatures—both friends and enemies—as unusual alliances are forged and both sides prepare for a great war…a war over the Starfinder and the destiny of the humans’ claim to the sky.
STARFINDER is a book for anyone who craves an action-packed adventure with unique creatures coming out of the pages left and right. Most of the characters, though hastily introduced, come to win our sympathies, despite perhaps being an imperfect creature or even one of the bad guys. Moth’s determination to fly could lead to his downfall, and I found it interesting to see how Fiona’s stubborn temper changed over the course of the novel.
Like the characters, many of the plot twists seem to come out of nowhere, which made following the book difficult at times. Every once in a while I found it hard for me to suspend my disbelief as another fantastical object—a magical suit of armor, for example—was introduced to us without preamble. Additionally, Marco’s writing and his book hovers uncertainly between a middle-grade and an adult fantasy, almost as if it can’t make up its mind as to which it wants to be. Moth and Fiona certainly talk their age, but the rest of the narration flits between plodding obtuseness, a slow pace that adults can stand more than kids, and a too-obvious telling-not-showing, which I presume is its unsuccessful attempt to be more age-appropriate.
That being said, I believe that STARFINDER’s appeal can transcend age and genre boundaries. Ignoring the average writing and sometimes unbelievable plot points, John Marco has written a swashbuckling adventure novel that only gets better as the pages go along. (My favorite scene, in fact, was the last battle, a scene of such epic proportions and vivid imagery that I couldn’t put the book down then.) If you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy movies such as Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films, pick up STARFINDER. It’s the written equivalent of “Nausicaa and the Valley of the Winds.”
Kristin Cashore (Graceling)
Neal Shusterman (Unwind)
A. S. King (The Dust of 100 Dogs)
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5