CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012
Mason Starling attends an exclusive Manhattan school, Gosford Academy, where she is on the fencing team and seems headed for national acclaim for her sporting ability. One evening during practice, a terrible storm sends a tree crashing into the athletic centre and allows a horde of winged monsters into the gym. Mason and others on the fencing team are too stunned to react but are saved by a mysterious man who appears at almost the same moment. Once everyone is safe, Mason learns that the stranger's name is Fennrys Wolf. But that is all she knows about him. And, apparently, that is all he knows about himself. Mason and Fenn set out to learn just who he is and, in the process, find out more than they bargained for both about Fenn and about Morgan, herself, and the entire Starling family and their strange ties to ancient Norse mythology.
Lesley Livingston is a well-known and award-winning young adult writer and author of the "Wondrous Strange" trilogy. Readers of Starling will recognize New York City's Central Park and its use as a portal to the fairy underworld and even darker realms beneath as well as other New York streets and neighbourhoods. Any large urban environment would suffice as the setting as Livingston creates her own paranormal fantasy within the confines of the city.
Mason is the central character and shows both strength and bravery as she encounters beings she never imagined existed as well as facing up to the dark side of her own family. Fennrys is handsome and charismatic in the dark, brooding way of romantic heroes and seems to co-incidentally remember facts about his past just as they become important to the plot of the story. Other characters, such as members of Mason's family and those on the fencing team, fill out the essentials of the cast.
The excerpt above points out that, within one week, Mason has had to deal with "storm zombies, lizard mermaids, river goddesses, nasty flying things that I don't even want to know what they were, and stunt doubles for the hounds of the Baskervilles." Within the novel, Livingston weaves elements of Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythology, to say nothing of werewolves, vampires, zombies and ninja references. While this will have appeal for lovers of mythology and/or fantasy, the result seems to be a novel which doesn't quite know where it's headed and which, despite all of the above disparate elements, seems quite predictable. There is a great deal of adventure and plenty of romance, but readers also will need patience and the willingness to accept the eccentricities of the plot and characters. Given that the intended audience appears to be female young adult readers, these anomalies may be overlooked in favour of the aforementioned adventure and romance.
Livingston makes it evident that Starling is just the beginning of an ongoing story as Mason is kidnapped near the end of the novel and finds herself welcomed to Hel by the woman who died giving birth to her. The loose ends and inconsistencies of Starling may be resolved in future tales about Mason and her family.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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