The first installment of the Skylords series had a lot of promise but fell pretty short of my expectations. John Marco created a somewhat different setting with a combination of steampunk style airplanes and dirigibles fighting dragons and angels. But as I kept reading I kept shaking my head at the character and plot details. There was just too much wrong in those details for me to really like the book.
Moth is an orphaned child working in the hangars where Skyknights train in the dragonfly airplanes designed by flying genius Rendor. Rendor also is the newly installed governor of Calio at the edge of the known world. Within sight of the city is the Reach, a fogged over land for which the government forbids people from entering. No one returns when they do. Rendor’s granddaughter and ward is Fiona, come to live with him since her parents died in a flying mishap. She’s friends with Moth, and she doesn’t get along with her grandfather.
So Moth’s guardian is Leroux, an old Eldrin knight, perhaps the only one left besides Rendor. On his deathbed he promises a gift to Moth. And here’s where the first of the things that annoyed me occurred; Leroux won’t tell Moth what he gift is, how to use it, when he’ll get it, or pretty much anything. Only it has something to do with the Reach. Why he can’t reveal this information is never said. Then Moth finds Rendor and his men tearing apart the apartment after Leroux dies, looking for Moth’s gift, the Starfinder. Accusing Moth of stealing what belongs to him (that is, Rendor). That sort of makes sense until later when (spoiler) we learn Rendor is actually a good guy. There’s no earthly reason for Rendor to be such a dick about it if he’s a good guy. If he wasn’t such a jerk, none of the stuff that follows would have happened.
What does happen is that Moth and Fiona run away into the Reach with Esme, Leroux’s pet kestrel taking the Starfinder with them.There they find out humans are forbidden from the land by the rulers, the Skylords. They are looking for Merceron, a wizard that Leroux promised will have figured out how to use the Starfinder to return Esme to her original form. Only Merceron hasn’t figure it out and he doesn’t want to help them. No one wants to help them. The Starfinder is a magical device made by the Skylords that lets them see everyone in the land. Only Moth and the Skylords can use it. Everyone is deathly afraid of the Skylords. Even the dragons.
So here’s a few of my problems with the story, though I’m not going to list all of them because I don’t want to get too spoilerish or negative. Some of the issues really become apparent at the end. No one will tell the kids anything. Leroux wouldn’t. Rendor won’t. The mermaids won’t. The dragon wizard won’t. I never could make any sense of why they were all so secretive. Second, the kids are really inconsistent. One moment they are trusting and the next they don’t trust anyone. They ask someone for help and then decide he may be the enemy. Each on their own wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker, but added all up they pushed the book well over to the negative side for me.
To end this on a hopeful note, I think something can be done with the world of the Reach. With some aging of the characters and a little more consistency, the second book could be good. Could be. The setting is pretty intriguing.
The author sent me the copy that I read of Starfinder, with no obligation.
Author: John Marco
Cover creator: Tom Kidd
Series: The Skylords; 1
Imprint / publisher: DAW Books / Penguin
Format: Advance reading copy
Length: 326 p.
Publication date: May 2009