13 year old Moth has heard many stories of the land beyond the Reach, where humans are forbidden to go by the mysterious Skylords. When Moth inherits a strange instrument called a Starfinder and a magical Kestrel named Esme, he sets out into the reach with his best friend Fiona to escape Fiona’s grandfather Rendor, a powerful governor bent on getting the Starfinder for himself.
Given my usual distaste for high fantasy (just looking at the cover makes me break out in hives), I found STARFINDER unexpectedly riveting. The human city of Calio feels vaguely steampunk – with its mix of airships and Victorian sensibility, and the Reach and its creatures are reminiscent of various well-loved fantasy worlds and myths, at once familiar and yet given a fresh spin.
I was especially fascinated by the Redeemers, former humans turned into slaves of the Skylords with special powers, and I liked how we really got to know and sympathize with one. In fact, all of the characters and beings are written with a depth that makes it difficult to know just what they might do next. No one here is completely evil or saintly, and even the dictatorial Skylords have their good side.
While many of the ideas and themes of the book seem like they belong in an adult fantasy, the dialogue is decidedly middle grade and filled with too much exposition for my taste. This is a quick, intelligent read that will resonate with more than only high fantasy fans. Just give it a chance.
STARFINDER is available in hardcover now. Find out more about the novel, the first in a planned trilogy, at the author’s website.