Book Review: Starlighter by Bryan Davis

Hi there…

Every now and then, a new young adult (YA) book comes to my attention to read. As a parent, I’m always on the lookout for well-written fiction with positive role models. Unfortunately, sometimes that means that YA is based in the real world and fairly boring for those of us a bit older than the target audience. Though the real world can be exciting in and of itself, I tend to look for a bit more of an escape for my eldest daughter.

Though the Eragon and Harry Potter series both have kids in leading roles, except for the first couple of books I never really felt they were aimed at the pre-teen market. Starlighter, the first in the new Dragons of Starlight series from author Bryan Davis seems to be tailor made for younger readers.

Starlighter focuses on two main characters from two different worlds linked by history – Jason Masters, newly appointed bodyguard to the governor; and Koren, a slave to the whims of dragons. Each seems built to be a hero and save the day.

Jason’s brother Adrian is the bodyguard to the governor. When Adrian goes on an adventure to discover the truth behind a conspiracy that’s lived in rumor and half-truths for a generation or more, Adrian leaves Jason in his role as bodyguard to Governor Prescott and gives him a message tube with a cryptic message. The message opens a can of worms that leads Jason on a wild ride through dungeons, caves, and into a whole new world…

Elsewhere in the solar system, Koren is discovering that the dragons of her world may also be keeping secrets. For generations, her people have served the dragons tooth and claw – mining, cleaning, raising more children as slaves. The dragons say they are protecting her people, but Koren discovers many of them are waiting for the prophecy of a mysterious black egg to come true. Unfortunately, the prophecy may also lead to the destruction of her world.

As with much young adult fiction, these characters are larger than life with amazing resolve and fantastic skills to keep them alive on their perilous journey between worlds. Along the way, they meet other characters like Randall Prescott, son to the governor who turns out to be an ally; Elyssa, a girl thought kidnapped by bears who can see glimpses of the future; and Tibalt, a crazy prisoner with riddles containing clues to what they should do next.

With 400 pages, the book moves quickly with great descriptions to help readers visualize each step of the way – from the smell of the noxious gas released during mining, to the rising cold waters as the group is trying to figure out how to open the gateway between Jason and Koren’s two worlds. Davis’ writing style reminded me a bit of The Eye of the World – the first book in Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series.

By the end of the book, I was left with many questions and wondering what Jason and his friends would do to survive the trouble they find in the dragon world of Starlight, so I’ll definitely be interested to see what happens in the next book of the series. However – I would definitely recommend this book to younger readers instead of adults seeking more complex themes.

That’s not to say that Starlighter isn’t an enjoyable read. The concept of a pair of worlds bound together through a shared history and the enslavement of humans by dragons is not something I can recall in other fantasy fiction. However, it’s pretty easy to see who the good guys (and dragons) are and who isn’t helping out the characters as they chug along.

If you have a pre-teen interested in a fantasy story with swords, magic, and dragons – I’d definitely recommend you pick up a copy of Starlight for their enjoyment. Davis has a gift for storytelling I’ll be sharing with my daughters soon!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great books from Barnes & Noble below!

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Book Review: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Hi there!

I have to admit I had an ulterior motive for reading Warbreaker from Brandon Sanderson. I’d heard good things about his Mistborn trilogy, but hadn’t taken the time to read them.

[amazon-product align=”right”]0765320304[/amazon-product]After Robert Jordan passed away, Sanderson was chosen to complete Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. As a fan of the series, I wanted to see what Sanderson’s style was like before he took Jordan’s final work and finished it.

Without a doubt I was entranced from page one with Warbreaker. My only complaint is now I want to know more about the adventures of Vivenna and Vasher!

As I read about the world of T’Telir, I met many characters of great depth… The sisters Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris, who were fated to travel different paths than they’d trained for… Vasher, a man of few words, little patience, and a deep knowledge and talents for using people and BioChromatic magic to pursue his goals… Lightsong, god of bravery – one of the Returned gods of Hallendren and a reluctant player in the politics plaguing his city… And then there is Susebron the God King of Hallendren. I’d tell you more about him, but it might spoil the surprise.

Beyond the strong characters of the story, the unique magic system of the breath used by BioChromatic mages was also very intriguing. Each living thing had some amount of breath within it. Mages can take the breath and see the world with an enhanced appreciation for color, but also have the ability to grant unliving things life and control them to a degree. Vasher is a master of this and used it brilliantly in many scenes of the book.

There is great good in the world of Warbreaker and great evil as well. But the threads stay in the gray area in-between for the most part, which was the best part of all. Ethical and moral choices abound within these pages, and good people sometimes make bad choices. But it’s a choice, nonetheless. By the end of the book, the true heroes show themselves for who they were all along.

Though I really liked Vasher, I found myself identifying more with Denth in places. He was a riddle of a character, cloaked in his reticence, cryptic comments, and dark humor. This was not a man to be trifled with, and yet he worked great as a foil to Vasher’s impatience because he watched, waited, and even helped… until it was time to hinder.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up Sanderson’s gift for humor. Lightsong had some of the most amazingly sarcastic lines I’ve ever read in a fantasy novel. For example, fairly early on we learn about his desire to be the least active among the gods… “I try to avoid having thoughts. They lead to other thoughts, and—if you’re not careful—those lead to actions. Actions make you tired. I have this on rather good authority from someone who once read it in a book.”

Now that I’ve read some of Sanderson’s own writing style and his voice, I will be very curious to read the two final books of the Wheel of Time series. From what I’ve heard, they may be closer to the tone of the first few books of the series, which I enjoyed more than later ones. And I may have to find Sanderson’s Elantris series to catch up on what I’ve been missing from his earlier work as well.

If you like epic fantasy in a one-book package, Warbreaker from Brandon Sanderson is a steal. Be sure to pick it up at your favorite online or brick-and-mortar bookseller.

–Fitz

p.s. Be sure to pick up this and other Brandon Sanderson books at Amazon!

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Wheel of Time News…

Hi there…

I thought this was interesting today… It’s been announced that what was to be the final book of Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series, completed by Brandon Sanderson, has instead turned into a final three books. A Memory of Light is being broken into three volumes, the first of which will be released on November 3, 2009 as The Gathering Storm.

Now… This to me is starting to resemble a series by L. Ron Hubbard back in the mid-1980s called Mission Earth. And, like with Jordan’s series, it started strong and became convoluted and dragged out at the end. Though I’ve owned book 10 of Mission Earth for close to 15 years, I still haven’t read it. The last two of Jordan’s books are the same way… I have Knife of Dreams and New Spring on my shelf where they’ve been for the last few years. And I just can’t get back into it.

Perhaps Sanderson will breathe some new life into it. But the fact that they’ve chosen to split up Jordan’s final book into three doesn’t bode well for me. Will I purchase the books? Maybe.

How do you feel about this news? Any comments?

–Fitz

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