Thursday, August 23, 2012

Starling by Lesley Livingston

I have the ARC of this one, though it comes out in a few days (8/28/12).  I’m not the biggest Lesley Livingston fan. I read some of her other series (about fairies), and I wasn’t super impressed with it. There was something missing. This book grabbed my attention a long time ago though because it’s about a girl who fences competitively (!) and well, Norse mythology plays a major role. And like her other series, the setting is current day New York City. It seemed to me that urban fantasy + Norse mythology + sword fights = recipe for fun.
It wasn’t as fun as I wanted it to be. I didn’t hate it; I had fun reading it. It was still, well, missing something. I’ll get to that in a bit though. It all starts when a giant tree crashes into the fancy gym at Gosforth Academy. Mason, along with her evil brother (that no one else sees as pure awful), her crush (Cal), the school’s mean girl, and their fencing coach all get trapped inside the gym after fencing practice. The storm apparently messes with the building’s electricity and lock system. But when the tree comes down on them, so does Fennrys Wolf (a gorgeous and naked guy with no memories of anything except his name), and a pack of Draugr (supernatural monsters out for blood).
Fennrys seems built to destroy the monsters and does so, getting the kids and fencing instructor underground in the building’s basement, after of course some sword play for Mason and a major injury for her Cal. Fennrys comes down after he fights some more and helps heal Cal with some Shaman-y sounding words that he can’t explain why he knows. He also can’t explain to the fencing coach how he got be as good at fencing as he just was. And when the teens start talking too much, Fennrys gets them all to go to sleep so he can leave.
Mason’s dad freaks out that his daughter was in so much danger and takes her and her brother home (from their boarding school) for the weekend to recuperate. But as soon as Mason is back at school, Fennrys finds her and they become quick sword practicing friends and work together to try to get Fennrys’ memories back. Meanwhile, Mason’s evil brother is plotting how to help fulfill the end of the world Norse prophecy that was meant for his father. Apparently, his father failed the prophecy when his wife gave birth to Mason, a girl. She was supposed to have 3 sons, but only had two and then died giving birth to her daughter. However, the brother figures out a way around this, a way not so good for Mason.
Between the fencing competitions, the jogs down memory lane in NYC with Fennrys, and the random fights with various supernatural creatures that keep popping up in very public places, Mason never suspects she has anything to do with a prophecy for the end of the world. There’s a scary train scene, kidnappings, claustrophobia, romance, and a lot of mythological creatures.
I loved how the author combined elements with the NYC from her other YA series. I loved all the elements that made up the book. I loved the idea of the book and the plot of the book. What I wasn’t really buying were the characters. Why did Mason love fencing? Why was her brother such a jerk? I mean he practically killed her when she was a toddler. He locked her in a shed during a game of hide and seek and then forgot she was there when he went away for the weekend. She was trapped in a shed for 3 days and no one knew about it. This then results in her claustrophobia and a terrible relationship with her brother. But, the brother never shows any remorse. Mason assumes he always felt guilty even though he never acted that way…
Also, the characters would go through these giant, colossal changes and then there’d be no explanation for why the changes happened. For instance, her dad goes from being the most overprotective father on the planet to agreeing to his daughter’s demise. And the mean girl at school goes from insulting Mason all the time to becoming best friends with her (with no explanation for why). And Cal, the guy Mason was first crushing on goes from a flirtatious sweetheart to one of the biggest jerks in the book (for no explained reason).
Also, I was finally able to pinpoint what bothered me about Livingston’s other series and I think it is her voice. She creates these amazing sounding characters (like Mason who has a fear of closed spaces, yet loves to fence and Fennrys Wolf, a strong warrior meant to help bring about the end of the world, yet can’t remember anything), but then she gives them all the same voice. There were moments when Fennrys, a creature of legend, would use modern day girly expressions. And sometimes the evil brother would say things in the exact same way Mason and the mean girl and even the father did. And it just didn’t make sense for them all to sound so similar.
I did read this pretty quickly. I loved the world Livingston writes in. And I loved the story. I just think her characters needed some work to be more believable. I also think her characters needed to be more consistent for me to develop any more empathy or understanding for them. I give this one a 7/10.

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