Starfinder: Uneven

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewschildren's fantasy book reviews John Marco The Skylords StarfinderStarfinder by John Marco

Starfinder is the story of Moth, an orphaned child obsessed with learning how to fly, and Fiona, the granddaughter of the Governor of Calio, an outpost on the edge of civilization. Calio borders on the Reach, a featureless miles-wide expanse that is supposed to be impossible to cross, covered in an impenetrable mist that conceals and confuses the traveler. The Reach separates the human lands from the mythical Skylords, angelic beings who jealously guard the skies to keep any other race from achieving flight.

Moth is given the Starfinder, the most powerful magical artifact of the Skylords, by his dying guardian and is charged with crossing the impassible Reach and returning the Starfinder to the wizard Merceron. Fiona accompanies Moth, and the two are relentlessly pursued by her grandfather, intent on acquiring the Starfinder for his own purposes.

Starfinder read like two books. The first half kind of meandered along. The plot was slow and the characters seemed flat and cliché. I was having problems staying interested, and kept finding other things to read. About half way through, however, the writing took on a new life as the pace quickened, the characters developed another dimension, and a new character was introduced — Alisaundra, an enslaved Redeemer whose tragic focus underscores the depravity of the Skylords. I actually stayed up late to finish the final chapters of Starfinder.

Fiona and Moth both grow up a lot in this book, and it will be interesting to see what happens in future Skylord volumes. John Marco writes gripping fight scenes and is able to give each of the races a different fighting style appropriate for their abilities. Starfinder is a YA novel, but deals with some serious matters. Marco doesn’t sugarcoat the action and there’s no magical ending where all the characters are protected from anything bad happening to them.

Marco manages to tie up most of the loose ends (though I’m still confused about what being a child has to do with being able to work the Starfinder) and he sets up an ongoing conflict that will be played out in future volumes. I hope Marco gives a better explanation for The Reach and why it is exists, and why it is believed to be uncrossable when the characters in this book traverse it so easily.

Starfinder was uneven, but the second half was good enough to make me want to read the next Skylords book. I hope Marco can sustain the quality.


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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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