I will start off the bat, this isn’t going to be a favourable review. As I am not going to be recommending it to anyone, there will be some minor spoilers littered throughout.
I have majorly procrastinated over this review because I didn’t enjoy the book. I have a need to be liked and make people happy. Saying bad things about work that someone has compiled hours of their time into making, and most likely their heart and soul too kinda goes against that need. Also, who am I to even criticise their work? I have no degree in critiquing written work (only GCSE English). But I do know what I like, and this wasn’t it.
Starborn centres on Kyndra Vale, a 17 year old girl from a quiet town. The story starts on the morning of the Inheritance Ceremony where young people from the town receive their true name and purpose from an ancient relic. Having the introduction of the book be such a massive fantasy trope did immediately make me groan. In fact, the whole things reads like the Dystopian YA Novel parody twitter account.
Saying this though, the plot wasn’t actually bad. Once you get past the tropes, the idea of Solar and Lunar Wielders, magic users who get their power from either the moon or the sun, was a very interesting magic system. The author even explains a little about the mechanics in terms of how the Lunar light being reflected from the sun doesn’t grant the Solars extra power. But that is all the explanation given, and I was left wondering if it makes any difference how full the moon is, what happens when the moon is out in the day and what might happen if there is an eclipse. I also really liked the use of airships, though apparently airships are the only technology that exists in the world.
The whole book is plot driven. When I have heard people talk of plot verses character driven stories, I never thought much of it. Turns out, it’s because I have never really read anything that is as plot driven as this book. It actually made me shake my kindle and say “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” to it as characters did odd and inconsistent things to further the plot. At one point towards the end of the book, when Kyndra runs into her childhood friend, she is asked about her father. And it was such a jolt, given that very little attention had been paid thus far to her as yet unknown father, so you know it will soon become a plot point. And low and behold, it is revealed a chapter or so later. The biggest thing Kyndra does that annoyed me was when she became friends with a guy who forced himself on her, once he’d tied her up. Her reasoning for this was that it was better than having no friends. But this was the same girl who rejected her childhood friend’s marriage proposal because she “[doesn’t] need anyone.”
It took me a while to get into the book because the formatting was so terrible. At first I thought it was because I was reading it on my phone, but it remained even when I switched to my kindle. Even though I know it was a proof copy, it didn’t fill me with confidence that it had been released to reviewers (those people who create buzz for a book thus gaining sales) with such a lack of care and attention. I did have a look at the kindle version on amazon and it doesn’t seem to have this problem at the start of the book so hopefully they fixed the problem before general release.
I think one of the things that bothered me most though were the names. There were three male characters with J names. And not ‘normal’ names like James, John and Jack. They were ‘fantasy’ names. This often left me confused as to which character was being discussed. One of my favourite DA artists once advised:
“Names that start with the same letter … should be avoided—especially if one or both of the characters is minor and/or is absent from the storyline for a while. While the characters and their names are distinct in your mind, some readers will know them as “S—- the girl” when keeping track of them in their heads. It’s generally good to have only one S—- the girl. This should especially be kept in mind with fantasy names.” – MissLunaRose
This is definitely true for me when reading and it is also true for places and things too. One of the female character’s (Brégenne) name was awfully similar to Kyndra’s home town (Brenwyn- which was destroyed, so she can’t ever go back- another trope). I am conflicted over Brégenne. She is a great character – possibly the best written in the book. Due to her power, some other kids hurt her as a child which left her blind. However, she manages to use her Lunar power to ‘see’. I absolutely loved this, something that doesn’t exist in a lot of fantasy books is people with disabilities using their power to overcome it. However, right at the end, one of the other characters heals her. To me, this just takes away all her development and individuality.
Tropes can be awesome and they are tropes for a reason – they work. But there were just so many of them. However, given the interesting world-building in the story, I am not going to write this author off yet. I just think they need to flesh-out their characters a bit more, concentrating on their motives and personalities. By doing this, they may be able to avoid some of the tropes and write a better, more developed book. This is Book One of a trilogy, so I will read the next in the series, though I won’t be holding my breath.