Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description from Back Cover, slightly modified:
Jason Masters has grown up hearing the tale that, long ago, people were taken through a portal to another realm and enslaved by dragons. He doesn't believe the story even though his brother does. For a slave girl named Koren, it's the stories of a human world that are considered pure myth by the knowledgeable.
But what if the tales are true?
When Jason receives a cryptic message from his missing brother, he decides to discover the truth about the portal and save the Lost Ones if it really exists. At the same time, Koren, a slave in the dragons’ realm, discovers she has a gift that could either save or help doom her people. As Jason and Koren work to rescue the enslaved humans, a mystic prophecy surrounding a black egg may make all their efforts futile.
Starlighter is a young adult fantasy novel. There were several teen male and female main characters, so both boys and girls will probably enjoy it. The action was non-stop, and the story fast-paced. The world-building was very good. The author created unique societies and worlds (which included dragons and talking bears) without getting bogged down in description or made-up words. The suspense was created mainly by physical danger of one sort or another.
The main characters were teens that were varied, earnest, engaging, and cared about helping others. Only one minor teen character could quickly make good decisions under stressful circumstances, so most of the characters' troubles were brought on themselves through making one poor decision after another. By the end of the novel, I was feeling exasperated that they didn't seem to learn from some of their mistakes, but this wasn't pushed past the edge into unrealistic.
The story wasn't predictable, partly because the characters kept making poor decisions. Also, sometimes Jason would think, "Okay, if we do this, then they won't be able to do that." Though his reasoning didn't always make sense to me, I figured he knew more about his world than I did...but then he turned out to be wrong. So, basically, you learn not to trust his judgment. Luckily, near the end of this novel, he started to realize his problem of not fully thinking things through.
The Christian allegory was good but not obvious. I doubt it'd bother a non-Christian if they even noticed it. There was no bad language and no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to teens as exciting, clean reading.
Update, 2/2/11: I'd highly recommend reading Masters & Slayers by Bryan Davis before reading Starlighter. It'll help you understand what's going on in Starlighter. Both novels are set during the same events but have different viewpoint characters, and the characters in Masters & Slayers know more about what's going on and drive many of the events in Starlighter.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
A Teen's Review:
My 13-year-old female friend also read this novel. She could hardly put it down, and she said, "there's never a dull moment." She can hardly wait for the next book in the series. I asked if she liked the characters. She said, "I liked Koren." But she mainly seemed to like the story because it had interesting worlds and suspenseful action (which are the story elements she focuses on the most).
Excerpt from Chapter One
Blood match. The words echoed in Jason's mind as he stood at his corner of the tourney ring and gripped the hilt of his sword. Like a beating drum, the announcer must have repeated that phrase a hundred times, as if the potential for bloodletting might whip the crowd into a frenzy.
Jason scanned the two-hundred-plus onlookers. Seated in the surrounding grassy amphitheater during the warmth of midday, they offered no cheers, no applause, just a low buzz signaling a rising anticipation. Jason Masters, a peasant boy, had advanced to the finals and faced the obvious favorite, Randall Prescott, son of the governor of all Mesolantrum. And with the final round came new weapons and new rules designed to pose a fresh challenge to a young warrior's expertise and courage.
Read the rest of chapter one.