Starling Saga, Book 1
Author: Lesley Livingston
Narrator: Lesley Livingston
Duration: 8 hrs, 1 mins
Publisher: Harper Audio
Source: Publisher for Review
Description from Goodreads:
Mason Starling is a champion fencer on the Gosforth Academy team, but she's never had to fight for her life. Not until the night a ferocious, otherworldly storm rips through Manhattan, trapping Mason and her teammates inside the school. Mason is besieged by nightmarish creatures more terrifying than the thunder and lightning as the raging tempest also brings a dangerous stranger into her life: a young man who remembers nothing but his name—the Fennrys Wolf. His arrival tears Mason's world apart, even as she feels an undeniable connection to him. Together, they seek to unravel the secrets of Fenn's identity as strange and supernatural forces gather around them. When they discover Mason's family—with its dark allegiance to ancient Norse gods—is at the heart of the mystery, Fennrys and Mason are suddenly faced with a terrifying future.
Set against the gritty, shadowed back-drop of New York City, this first novel in award-winning author Lesley Livingston's epic Starling Saga is an intoxicating blend of sweeping romance and pulse-pounding action.
I'm going to put this out there and make no bones about it: I didn't care for Starling. There were a few different reasons for that, some of which are just bad timing and others which involve Starling running along classic YA tropes I personally dislike. Now, some books I don't like leave a bad taste in my mouth, make me angry, but this one didn't. I know many readers will enjoy this, and I do not begrudge them that. It just was not for me.
Starling sounded so up my aisle like you wouldn't believe. I mean, slap the mythology label on something, and I'm pretty much guaranteed to be chomping at the bit to read it. Unfortunately, while the mythology in Starling is original, it didn't resonate with me. I don't know if it's because I don't know much about Norse mythology (or some other kinds of mythology, since Livingston draws from a bunch of different ones), but I was a bit confused. I could have used more descriptions of the various attacking creatures, since very few of them were familiar to me.
Of course, I might have been more charmed by the mythology herein had I not, through unfortunate happenstance read Valkyrie Rising, another Harper YA title with an eerily similar cover, while in the process of listening to this audiobook. Both involve Norse mythology generally, and Valkyries specifically. With that little coincidence, I can't help comparing the two, and I much preferred the more straightforward tale in Valkyrie Rising, as well as the fact that the setting fit the mythology so much better than an expensive prep school. I had some suspension of disbelief issues with the plot evolving around this prep school run by families who believe in Norse mythology still.
If you like a lot of action, Starling will provide that for you in spades. It's pretty much storm-battle-family drama-flirting-battle-battle-date-battle and on like that. Not only that, but you get to watch Mason and Fennrys battle myriad creatures. I will say this for Starling. Mason does have skills, and I liked that she was a talented fencer. I liked less her tendency to choke at big moments, usually because a boy told her she wasn't good enough to win. For all her magical mojo, she's the kind of heroine who runs when told to by a protective male, even though she has fighting talent. This may be the wiser choice, but it's not generally how I like my heroines.
Up to this point in my little discussion here, I know I've sounded hypercritical, but, honestly, the book would probably still have elicited a 2.5 from me, just sort of meh. What dropped it into the 'nope, not for me' range was the romance. If you don't like the main couple and you're supposed to, it's painful, am I right?
When the story opens, Mason has a crush on Callum, her fencing partner, and has had for ages. We soon learn that he likes her too, but, due to a beauty-maiming injury at the start of the novel, he's too afraid to make a move, and never stands a chance, serving as the pathetic, bum leg of the love triangle. Well, too bad, so sad, because Mason's over it as soon as she sees another (now prettier) face. Fennrys, who falls butt-naked out of the sky like man(na) from the heavens, catches her eye immediately, both for his sexy body and his manly fighting prowess.
|Like that...only less clothing.|
He comes and finds her later so that he can clothing borrowed from the fencing team. They flirt and she commits to helping him find out who he is, since, conveniently he has amnesia. You may be wondering what's so convenient about amnesia. Well, it's pretty damn convenient when the only things that have been forgotten are plot points! *headdesk*
Anyway, Mason and Fennrys did not work for me at all. For one thing, they are just shy of instalove. They moon over one another from moment zero, but they at least don't declare their love during that opening battle scene. What REALLY made me rage, though, was that I'm supposed to ship them, even though Mason is like totally terrified of him at times. You know what's not a good sign? BEING AFRAID OF THE GUY YOU LIKE. And I'm not talking afraid he's going to fart on you or eat the last oreo, okay? She sometimes suspects he's dangerous and might hurt her. I'm not saying that means she can't date him ever, but you should probably hold off on going places alone all the time and pretending he's your soulmate.
Starling failed to be what I wanted it to be, but you might still like it. So far as I could tell from the audiobook version, I had no issues with the writing. I really don't have a specific recommendation. Give it a go if you're interested.
I think it's just so cool when authors narrate their own work. There's something so personal about that. Of course, not everyone has the voice for it, nor do they necessarily have the time, as audiobook narration is quite the length process.
Livingston has an incredibly pleasant voice. Her narration wouldn't have worked if the book were in first person, but suited a third person omniscient narrator just fine. Don't judge me when I say that my favorite part of the book was listening to Livingston's pronunciation of words in her Canadian accent. I am pretty fanatical about accents, so you can imagine me giggling with glee every time she said the word 'sorry.' Unfortunately, either because I was disengaged from the story or because of my personal reaction to Livingston's voice, I had a lot of trouble focusing on what was happening. I listened to at least two chapters twice, because I could not for the life of me remember what had happened, even though I'd only been listening.
Audio or Print?:
I think that depends on you. I'm not sure if I would have liked this book any more in the print version, and suspect I might have liked it less. Livingston's narration is good, but not out of this world, so I don't feel the need to urge either format on you.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5