"It is mankind's birthright to fly. I've always believed that. I
tell you, Captain, we are born to it, like the birds themselves.
Why else would God put such a desire in the hearts of men? Children
look up at the sky and they want wings. They want to touch the face
This paragraph, spoken by Governor Rendor, is the key artery to
the heart of STARFINDER, John Marco’s latest effort. Written
with a younger audience in mind, it is no less enthralling for
adult readers, and is an engaging and emotionally charged tale of
anguish, loss, regret and redemption.
Thirteen-year-old Moth has grand dreams of flight. He wants
nothing more in all the world than to fly one of the mighty
dragonfly ships as a Skyknight, protecting his home city of Calio,
which is truly on the edge of the world. His parents having passed,
he lives with an elderly guardian, Leroux, who succumbs to illness,
but not before spilling an unbelievable story and bequeathing a
His friend, bitter 14-year-old Fiona, resides with her
grandfather, Rendor, the Governor of Calio and the man who invented
the mighty airships that patrol the skies. Fiona's parents were
killed in an accident aboard an airship. Rendor is more concerned
with his ships and his governance, much to Fiona's displeasure, and
she views life through a lens of abandonment and betrayal.
When Rendor's men seize the late Leroux's possessions, Moth
flees and hides away, aided by Fiona and Skyhigh Coralin, the one
Skyknight who offers Moth hope for the future. Knowing the danger
he puts his friends in, Moth decides he alone must take on the
fantastic task set to him by Leroux and violate the law by crossing
beyond the misty Reach and into the land of the Skylords. As with
all plans, however, he cannot shake Fiona. Together with the
strange bird Esme, rumored to have once been a Skylord herself and
armed with the magical Starfinder device, the two commence a
journey replete with danger.
Once they enter the realm across the Reach, they are hunted from
all sides: Rendor, who secures a force to cross the void and
reclaim the Starfinder, and the Skylords seek them, with the aid of
the Redeemers, creatures formerly human who were captured and
enslaved by the Skylords. Along their perilous road, undertaking
every effort to stay a step ahead of their hunters, Moth and Fiona
encounter dragons and centaurs as they seek answers to what the
Starfinder truly does and how they can accomplish their mission of
restoring Esme to her rightful form.
Marco's delivery of the story is impeccable. It has a steady
pace throughout, and its action scenes are vivid. The quieter
moments carry weight, especially those where Fiona is lamenting the
loss of her parents and trying to convince Moth that no one can
ever be trusted because they will just leave you. Throughout their
journey they constantly must come to terms with those who leave,
needing to somehow have faith in their return --- a faith that
fails in many instances.
One of the strongest elements of the writing is that for the
majority of the novel, there is no real understanding of good and
evil, or who is right and who is wrong. Rendor cares nothing at all
for the children; he merely wants the Starfinder device. The
dragon, Merceron, one of the finer characters in the story, refuses
to aid the children, changes his mind, receives the Starfinder from
Moth, and sets out on his own quest. The Skylords control the sky.
No one may fly but them --- not dragons, not birds, and certainly
not humans. For them, the Starfinder device is a necessary tool for
controlling flight. Who can be trusted?
Set in that framework, Moth and Fiona struggle to discern the
proper path. They are struggling on the cusp of no longer being
children, burdened by world-altering events and decisions, battling
inner demons of doubt and despair as they seek faith in those
around them and in themselves. It is a well-conceived and executed
coming-of-age tale. And even so, their elders are also battling
with those same issues, illustrating that these problems are
universal and not limited to any specific age group.
STARFINDER is a gem for all ages cleverly wrapped in a shiny
package. Inside that covering you won't find exactly what you were
expecting. John Marco, himself enamored with the miracle of flight,
has put his passion into this story, and it breathes on the page.
Beneath the serious tenor of the book is a wonderful well of boyish
belief in the wonder and magic of dreams.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 23, 2011