Plot: 4/5 Characters: 3/5 Writing: 5/5 Entertainment: 4/5 World Building: 5/5
With a bounty on her head and her pursuers closing in, Cyriana has little choice but to take a job stealing from Starwatch, a prestigious institute of learning, to get out of Dodge. With a carefully chosen team of liars, cheats, and thieves at her side, Cyriana throws herself into the most dangerous caper of her life in the hope of earning untold riches, but when dealing with life-long criminals, who can Cyriana really trust?
Blackport’s word building is by far his biggest strength when it comes to storytelling. No detail is missed and no stone is left unturned until the reader has a clear, vivid image of this world and the way it works. The detail put into every step of the heist is incredible as well. Blackport does an excellent job showing what ideas would work and what ideas wouldn’t, who is responsible for what, and everything necessary to get in and out of Starwatch with some unexpected and exciting twists and turns. I also appreciate the effort he put into building a world outside the country the story takes place in. While the land itself seem to be based on historical Europe, there are characters from a variety of nations and, from what I could tell, several different ethnicities, which added to the world being more fleshed out and three-dimensional. I only wish could have been more invested in said characters.
To Blackport’s credit, the dialogue between Cyriana and her band of criminals is very well crafted and they play off each other well, but it all feels surface deep and the characters are a bit forgettable. Outside of traits that help them in the heist and their need to constantly bicker with one another, none of them have much personality. There’s only one scene I can remember where two characters really connect and share some of their history, but the second character doesn’t even share her story with the audience. The chapter ends just as she’s beginning to talk. Then I blatantly forgot about a character and his roll until two other characters talked about him because he hadn’t left a single impression on me. When you have as many important characters as “Starwatch” does, that can be a problem. Especially since the whole payoff of the book is to see if they succeed and get out unscathed.
At the same time, I acknowledge that Blackport might have been trying to write a world and/or idea-driven story rather than a character-driven one. If that’s the case, I’d still say he succeeded. It just would have been nice to care a little but more about these people who are faced with such a dangerous task.
If you’re into fantasy, or criminal fiction for that matter, I still think “Starwatch” is worth a read. The heist, which is the main focus of the novel, is expertly crafted, exciting, and full of surprises. The world is well-constructed, convincing and lends itself to a lot of future adventures. I just hope the people in those adventures turn out to be a bit more sympathetic.
Originally posted on tabbyafae.com on Aug 7 2016