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Tuesday, February 3, 2009


by John Marco
326 pages

*** The Story ***

The city of Calio is at the edge of the known world. Trains and airships (sort of like blimps) bring people here from the interior of the world but no one goes any farther. Just outside the city limits is a dense wall of fog known as The Reach. No one who has ever gone into The Reach has ever returned, although there are tall tales to the contrary. Some people believe the Skylords rule The Reach and whatever lies beyond it, but others say the Skylords are just a myth.

Our two main characters are Moth and Fiona. Moth, a poor orphan, is 13 years old and he longs to be a Skyknight, flying missions near The Reach. Red-headed Fiona, just a few years older than Moth, is the grand-daughter of Calio’s governor. When Moth’s guardian dies and leaves him a strange gift, suddenly Fiona and Moth are forced into hiding. The message that came with the gift leads them to head into The Reach in search of a magic they know nothing about.

Once on the other side they discover a land that is beyond their imagination, filled with mermaids, dragons, centaurs, and other mythical creatures. But there is also great danger there, and a war that is simmering beneath the surface.

*** What I Liked ***

Marco offered a preview of the first chapter a few months ago. In my email to him after I read it, I wrote, “I'm really intrigued by the ‘edge of the world’ idea and of Calio as a sort of wall between this side and whatever is on the other side. It's a good thing when the setting and basic premise of a book are captivating right from the start.” After finishing the novel I still agree with that statement. The idea of The Reach and the legends surrounding it were the best part of the story for me.

There’s nothing like reading a new author and waiting and wondering when something is finally going to happen. Thankfully that wasn’t a problem here. Within the first few pages we’ve met the major characters and the story is rolling right along. There is no hesitation – things take off very quickly.

Without giving away any of the story, I’ll just say that I liked the ambiguity. There are some characters that seem to be one way but as the story progresses you find out that they are not as clear cut as you first suspected. This goes for both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” … and it makes the characters seem more realistic despite the fantastical setting.

*** What I Didn’t Like ***

There are a few things that I didn’t like about this book, but you’ll see that they are *almost* all matters of personal taste so please feel free to disregard them.

  • I’m not a big fan of mythical creatures (mermaids, talking dragons, etc.) so that part of the story really wasn’t my cup of tea. I like my fantasy to be more of the sword and sorcery type.

  • The book seems to be a Young Adult novel, what with the teenage protagonists and the various problems and emotions, and I’m not really a fan of YA fantasy books.

  • The pace of the tale seems very fast – things were happening within the first few pages and suddenly the plot was in full swing. Again, being a fan of more “epic” fantasy I’m used to a slower pace and much, much more character development (yeah, I’m STILL working through the Wheel of Time re-read I wrote about on the left sidebar) so this book felt rushed to me.

  • Some of the names bothered me, like Moth and Skyhigh. I get that they have to do with flying and the book is very much about the privilege of flight, but I’m just not a fan.

  • There are a few places where the plot could have been tightened up a bit, where things seemed to have fallen through the cracks. For example, one character knows another character’s name even though they were never introduced and little things like that. These don’t interrupt the flow of the story at all, but they were a bit irritating when I noticed them.

*** Other Thoughts ***

I’ve wanted to read this book since October when I read about it over

at Grasping for the Wind. When I mentioned it on a Friday Finds post, the author offered to send me an ARC when they were available. John – thanks for this, I really appreciate it!

STARFINDER didn’t end up being exactly what I expected but it wasn’t bad either. If you are into YA books, mythical fantasy, or magical creatures, and you want a quick and fun read, then definitely pick up this book – it will be a perfect fit. But if you’re looking for something with lots of depth, extensive characterization, or fully developed worlds, you won’t find that here.

(By the way, this is the image of the book I first saw, the one that really drew me in.)

*** About the Author ***

John Marco has a blog – which I subscribe to and comment on regularly – and I hope you’ll go check it out. He told the story of STARFINDER's creation over at Grasping for the Wind if you want to go check it out. John has also written a number of other books (which I have not read – sorry John!) that you can learn about on his website.


Nymeth said...

I'm so looking forward to reading this! Unlike you I'm a very big fan of both mythical creatures and YA, so I'm even more excited about it now :P

And I'm with you on the cover's irresistible.

John Marco said...

Thanks for the review Heather ;) "Starfinder" is definately a YA novel and so maybe wasn't your cup of tea, but I'm glad there were things you enjoyed about it. I'm especially glad you liked the ambiguity of some of the characters, which is something I do in all my books. I'm a big fan of the "epic" mode as well, but wanted/needed to do something different and lighter after so many "fat" books.

raych said...

Yes, hear hear! Swords and sorcery! I'm with you on that one.

Antonette said...

This sounds interesting! I'll have to check to see if our library has this one. I think my nephew might like this.

valentina said...

I love the art cover and I love mythical creatures and YA so it sounds like it's the book for me! to the wishlist it goes:)

Heather J. said...

Nymeth & Valentina - I think you'll both enjoy this one. It is an easy read, and it has the type of story you are into.

John - thanks again for the ARC! Like I mentioned in my email to you, I'm SURE there will be lots of people who will enjoy this book - like Nymeth and Valentina for starters. :)

Raych - woohoo, another fan! Tolkien, Jordan, Eddings ... those are my heroes.

Antonette - sorry, you'll have to wait a while ... this doesn't come out until May '09. :(

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