Wednesday, July 21, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour: Starlighter Day Three

So far I've touched on genre, plot, and characters. Today I'll take a look at some interesting thematic questions that Starlighter raises. Natalla and her brother Stephan fail when they try to escape. A dragon incinerates Stephan on the spot, but thanks to Koren's foreknowledge, Arxad intervenes to save Natalla from a similar fate. The next morning she is tried at the bascilica. We see the trial through Koren's eyes, who by chance and unknown to the dragons stumbles on the proceedings as they begin. Arxad agrees to defend Natalla and speak for her. This allows him to say things that would ordinarily call into question his loyalty to the dragon species. Arxad presents the situation from Natalla's perspective, noting her fear of promotion. However, he also suggests that humans are not like other animals, that they have a soul. This argument startles the dragons in attendance and angers Magnar. Arxad must do some deft legal maneuvering at this point to reiterate that he is speaking as if he is Natalla, a human slave, and not as himself, a dragon. It appears that officially, dragons believe that only they have souls and that part of the justification for enslaving the humans is their lack of souls. The dragons believe they occupy a higher rung on the ladder of being. The debate raises an interesting question. How does one know if something possesses a soul? Arxad never states his opinion on the matter of souls for humans, but his subsequent actions suggest he does not fully agree with the official dragon policy.

Davis records several conversations between Koren and the unhatched prince in the black egg. For some of these conversations Koren is chained to the floor next to the egg. The prince argues that if she stays with him long enough, she will learn to love him and desire above all else to serve him. Koren imagines herself becoming like Zena, a pale shell of a human with eyes like the black egg she serves. The prince argues that it would be better for her future for her to love him and that if necessary, the chains will bind her to him and ultimately lead her to love him. Koren notes that Zena's wrists bare the old scars from manacles. Koren rejects the prince, arguing that being forced to love someone is not loving them. Instead, Koren claims to serve the Code, an ancient book of wisdom and proverbs. The prince argues that Koren is unable to keep the Code, that calamity ensues whenever she works against the prince and attempts to follow the Code. The prince's logic is very persuasive but Koren holds to her beliefs. This debate raises the question of free will and can be read allegorically. The prince in the black egg represents Satan. The chains are sin. The Code is the Bible. Like the story in Genesis, Satan is again tempting a woman. I don't know if Davis intends readers to interpret the situation this way but it certainly elevates the debate between Koren and the prince.

As one would expect from the first book in a series, neither of these themes is resolved in Starlighter. I assume Davis is planting seeds that will grow and flower in the upcoming volumes.

Starlighter is a page-turner. It has many minor characters that are as compelling as Jason, Koren, and Arxad. Some complex themes are simmering beneath the surface narrative. The ending is surprising, not what I expected at least, but not a resolution. As with the breaking of the fellowship at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, the ending of Starlighter casts groups of characters in three directions. It's not the end but the end of the beginning. I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series.

For more information on Bryan Davis and Starlighter, visit the author's blog or website.

For more commentary on Starlighter from other tour members, visit their blogs listed below.
Brandon Barr
Beckie Burnham
R. L. Copple
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Jane Maritz
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher


  1. Very well done, Jeff. You have eloquently expressed some of the themes.

    It's interesting how widely varied readers' perspectives are. I have seen reviews that Starlighter is clearly for teens because it's simplistic, not very deep. I wonder if they are picking up on the underlying themes at all. I know some aren't, because one blogger on this tour couldn't figure out the themes at all.

    I wrote the book on two levels--a straightforward story with clear good vs evil action for younger readers and also a deeper journey into the soul, which some readers aren't picking up. Clearly you saw it easily.

    Yet, there is even more that I put in even more subtly, which will become clearer as the story progresses.

    By the way, if you have read To Kill a Mockingbird, did you see some parallels between the trial scenes in that book and in mine?

    Again, well done.

  2. Bryan,

    Thanks for your kind words regarding my posts. I'm glad to see I wasn't way off the mark. I haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird but I am familiar with the story. (I've seen the adaptation starring Gregory Peck several times.) Now that you mention it, I do see the similarities, a hopeless case presented before an audience hostile to the defendant with Koren, like Scout, watching from the balcony. I think we can add themes of institutionalized racism and injustice to the list. Gives me something else to think about when I read the next book.

  3. Nice analysis, Jeff. I think sometimes, particularly with "YA" stories, we see what we expect to see, so someone can come away from the Narnia stories, for example, understanding little more than they've read a cute little fantasy about some kids, a lion, a witch, and a magic wardrobe. It's only after some time and reflection that we see the deeper layers.

    And Arxad does a pretty good rendition of Atticus Finch. I totally missed that, but it all comes together now. :)

  4. Great post again, Jeff. I love your treatment of theme.

    I didn't draw the allegorical parallels until the end (which made the story more interesting to me) because I wasn't sure about the prince (throw into the mix the fact that I couldn't remember what the prophecy was regarding him when the lost were found).

    I've enjoyed your articles a lot.


  5. Jeff,

    Brilliant synopsis and analysis which argures forcibly that the story is good. Bryan Davis did an extremely good job at that.

    However, if you've read my posts, you'll know I don't think much of the writing. Because the writing is poor, it detracts immensely from the story. Would that not only the story was good, but that the writing was good. Teens love it now? They would have absolutely adored it had Davis used his writing skills and wrote superbly. Some on this tour have indicated they won't read any more of the series because they aren't teens any more and therefore are out of touch with such a so-called young adult level. It's the writing. A story for teens, written well, will compellingly appeal to all ages.

    The comparison to the trial scene in To Kill A Mockingbird may have some formal similarities, but the writing in the two books are at polar ends.


  6. Jeff, I am impressed with your coverage of my book during this tour. Your analysis shone brightly, and your assessments were sharp. Actually all bloggers on the tour, with one or two exceptions, did a great job.

    Anyway, one of my publishers has joined a program that will allow serious reviewers to gain access to pre-publication galleys in pdf format. You can download the file, and it will expire after 15 days. If you are interested in participating, please let me know. The file for the adult book, Masters & Slayers, is available now. It is best to contact me by email - bryan (at) daviscrossing (dot) com.