Fort Starlight by Claudia Zuluaga © 2013, Engine Books
The Locktender’s House by Steven Sherill © 2012, Argo-Navis
A down on her luck girl ends up living in a shack in the boonies. That’s the premise of both these books. I started reading Starlight at the same time I started listening to Locktender, not realizing they would be so similar. The shack in Starlight is in Florida, while Locktender’s house lies in Pennsylvania. Starlight has a cast of local odd characters who interact with down-on-her-luck Ida. This made Starlight more engaging than Locktender, where most of story was down-on-her-luck Janice by herself.
One of Janice’s local odd characters was a ghost trying possess her. This element gave Locktender potential for some really good chills, but Sherill couldn’t decide if the main conflict should be Janice losing her soul or finding a new boyfriend. Both conflicts thus became watered down. I couldn’t figure out what was driving Janice, so I had a hard time feeling for the character or understanding why the guy or the ghost wanted anything to do with her.
Ida’s conflict was trying to earn enough money to leave Fort Starlight after discovering coming there in the first place was big mistake. Her most interesting relationship was with a pair of unsupervised children, which led to a chilling reveal. Zuluaga hinted that another local child, who had gone missing, would play a part in Ida’s story, but unfortunately that subplot never had anything to do with Ida. A disappointing and curious waste of words.
Both books had rather pointless endings, but I had more fun getting to the pointless ending in Starlight than in Locktender. Welcome to the shelf, Fort Starlight. The Locktender’s House gets torn down and recycled. Lesson: give your characters people to talk to.