Read or Die

Review of Shannon Messenger’s STELLARLUNE

Stellarlune by Shannon Messenger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Do you know what intrigues me the most about a lengthy book? The potential for fantastic worlds and character growth. I assume the author has used all those pages to their best advantage and filled each one with a purpose. Occasionally a chapter might slip past that wasn’t germane to the plot or even the story arc, but it’s a rarity. That’s the bargain they’ve made with the writer who’s sat down and invested their time into propping up a book that weighs over two pounds.

So nothing disappoints like encountering a constantly repetitive narrative with a mildly interesting world that fails to deliver on new encounters and stagnant characters. And (exempting volume #8, which was at least a new approach to the middle-grade novel) that’s all Ms. Messenger has delivered for nine books straight. The Lost Cities have gained nothing that wasn’t established early on – including newly discovered species – which was already an explosion of glitter and jewels that made the residents pompous elitists. The potential existed to explore the void and invite a new dimension to the “flat” world, but it was left as nothing more than a blank, featureless darkness with nothing to offer. It’s a world filled with magic, but nothing remotely interesting or new to offer? Ms. Messenger has run out of ideas already? How is that intended to keep anyone engaged, much less the developing mind of a youngster?

And then there’s Sophie.

Throughout this volume, everyone insists she’s “changed.” But she’s the same bratty, impulsive child she’s been from the very beginning. There’s no shift or dramatic reveal. The only actual change is everyone’s determination to say something – which grew old in the first chapter. The characters undergo such minimal growth it’s a wonder that they manage to accomplish anything. It’s as if everyone looked at the Harry Potter books and decided they could do the same because one franchise had success with a frozen character. Never realizing they’re boring the reader.

What Ms. Messenger’s books disguise in their girth are pages of endless explanation and rehash that could have easily been cut in editing. The exposition and repetition contribute nothing to the story outside of word count. And they grow tedious in the reading. And looking at where they ARE streamlined in other chapters, it’s easy to see where the book could become shorter. It’s more like Ms. Messenger deliberately expands things because of a gimmick or expectation that she produce a mammoth of a tome. Sacrificing solid writing in the process.

The bones of a possible story lie buried within so much nonsense. And it’s painful trying to unearth them. Ms. Messenger would do her readers a favor by stepping back and giving her work a critical look – even if it means leaving the excess behind.

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