Tuesday, June 9, 2009

STARFINDER by John Marco

Starfinder: Book One of the Skylords Starfinder: Book One of the Skylords
by John Marco

May 5th 2009 by DAW Hardcover
Hardcover, 326 pages
0756405513 (isbn13: 9780756405519)

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Moth was flying his kite near the aerodrome when he heard the dragonfly crash.
Young Moth had grown up in Calio, the mountain city, dreaming of becoming a Skynight, one of the elite pilots who flew the fragile, beautiful, newfangled flying machines called dragonflies. To the north of Calio stretched the Reach, looking like a sea of fog that never ended. Flat and peaceful, the mists of the Reach flowed all the way to the horizon, and Calio loomed over this vast forbidding expanse like a sentinel standing guard.

There were numerous tall tales about the lands beyond the Reach, and Moth heard the wildest of them from Leroux. Leroux, had once been one of the legendary Eldrin Knights, had taken guardianship of the ten-year-old when Moth's mother died. At first, Moth had been expecially fascinated by Leroux's stories of the Skylords, but at the grown-up age of thirteen, Moth was becoming increasingly skeptical about the existence of these mysterious, powerful and frightening beings from beyond the Reach.

When Leroux died, Moth was faced with an impossible task: to protect Lady Esme, Leroux's pet kestrel. And protecting Lady Esme meant venturing into the forbidden Reach with his best friend Fiona, to find dragons, battle Skylords, and discover the secret hidden within the kestrel herself.

It would be easy for me to ambiguously rave about Starfinder. As I said before, I loved it. But I know that others found it lacking, so I thought I would specify what I loved, so that you can judge whether you might use the same criteria as I.

1. It's intelligent.
The tone of the book doesn't condescend to readers. The narrative might be a little slow for someone only interested in action, but the metaphors and literary elements are delightful for those who choose to identify them. The language is lyrical but not flowery, with lots of good SAT words sprinkled throughout, in only appropriate places.

2. It's original....but familiar.

The Hindenberg meets Fantasyland? Heck, yeah. I never expected, plot-wise, what would happen next. The characters were complex enough to keep me guessing. And the Reach itself is a magical land created wholly by Marco, rather than lifted from the idea of some other one.

While the plot and characters are original, Starfinder, for me, had the feel of so many of my favorite worlds and authors and characters: Narnia, Neverland, Naussica of the Valley of the Wind, Anne McCaffrey, Lewis Carroll, Howl's Moving Castle, Xena - to name a few. In other words, this story felt very comfortable, both exciting and familiar, and that added to its charm.

3. It's got heart.
Marco is careful not to reduce any of the conflicts in Starfinder to dualisms. There are many shades of grey, and the reader is given a chance to think about what his or her own response might be even as Moth or Fiona make theirs. There's a great deal of affection - parental love, friendship - without romance playing much of a role in this book (other than, for example, a husband-wife who are obviously fond of each other.) Whatever the emotions, Marco elicits them organically, without resorting to cliches for loss or joy or anger or exhilaration.

Starfinder would make a great present for boys around ages 12 to 14 who like to read, or for reluctant boy readers ages 12 to 18. I wouldn't buy this for a girl unless I knew she was open to the strong female characters and didn't expect mushy romance. But everyone - everyone - should at least check it out from the library.

Starfinder book tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours.


  1. I like what you say about this book being comfortable and familiar- I like fantasy worlds like that, they feel like home, but they still keep it exciting!

  2. This book sounds AWESOME AWESOME. I love books with heart and books that make you think. I have been eyeing this one for a while now actually.

  3. Nice review. I just got the second half up for my review the other day and I do agree about everything you said. It's definitely intelligent with a lot of fantasy and the world he created was just fantastic. I was always interested to see what happens next, and I liked that it seemed true to life...not everyone ended up with a happily-ever-after but it's still hopeful.


  4. Lovely review. This sounds really interesting. i am oddly in love with the cover. I think that I would really enjoy this book.

  5. I have been on the fence about this - I think it was the whole flying thing (but then again, I loved the Pern books). But now that I've read your review, I'm slipping off that fence a bit. I think I'll add this to my list.

  6. Ever since that comment you left on my Starfinder review, I've been waiting to read yours, and I enjoyed it! I also like how you mentioned Nausicaa, because that's exactly what I thought too. And I even went so far as to rewatch Nausicaa the other day because of this book...!

  7. P.S.
    You have some awards:

  8. Great review, Aerin! I really liked how you were really specific why you liked it, particularly since others have had issues with the book (and fairly so!).

  9. I've had this one on my radar for awhile. It seems unique!



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