If I were giving out awards to the parts played in this novel, Starka probably wouldn't win Best Character. Rather, I think she'd win Most Improved Character. My "Best" vote would probably go to DaVille, Cairos, or Wan Du, but it's all subjective. The character's perspective you enjoy most will dictate what you get out of the story.
That being said, it's become apparent to me that some readers are completely put off by Starka.
Here's one perspective:
...the main character Starka annoyed me so much that it was difficult to read about her. I think she must be the sister of Bella from Twilight. She was always doing stupid things, asking stupid questions, had a 14 year old’s sexual maturity, and was always needing to be rescued by a man.And another:
...thoughts of her dear brother quickly fall off the radar and Starka's character begins to unravel. She is shown to have no firm ideas and no ability to defend herself. However, she consistently puts herself in harms way, where she is both no help and a liability; with those that know better doing little to dissuade her. This is forced drama and adds nothing. I could have appreciated her more if she had at least shown some common sense or intelligence, but she does neither.
At first, I was shocked and horrified by this. Then I was just confused. Were we talking about the same character?
As I was writing the book, Starka was hands-down my favorite. The book is about her, after all: her prophecy, her journey, and her transcendence of circumstance to become something more than she was before. She goes through a process of development, and by virtue of that she has to start a bit "lesser" than she ends. She is there as events unfold, and not only gets to participate in the story but also benefit from it.
After giving the matter a lot of thought, I came to partially agree with the above viewpoints. At the beginning of the novel, Starka is not only distraught but was raised in a society of rose-colored glasses. Her bigoted nation seems a utopia to those who live inside it, and she's lived her entire life with that single goal in mind. She has no idea what the real world is like except for what she's told by her authority figures, and that is simply that the outside world is an evil place. Even after being thrust into it and finding her usual defense mechanisms inadequate, she has no idea what to do.
In short, she's not prepared for the adventure she's about to have. Starka hides behind her faith much of the time because it's all she knows. Her only support mechanisms, her brother and her church, have both abandoned her for reasons she can't grasp. She's weak, afraid, and not the right person for the job--and yet she must go on this adventure. She's the only person who can.
Of course, I don't want to defend Starka as some headless moron who blindly stumbles through the story. Neither would it make sense for her character to pick up an axe and start beheading the nearest Carrion soldier she could find. No one would see her as a traditional "hero." She's what writers refer to as simply a protagonist.
I know some readers enjoy her, they just may not be as vocal about it in their reviews.
She's neither wizard nor warrior, and in a harsh world a person with no way to fight back or defend themselves must rely on others to do it for them. This isn't ideal for her, since Starka believes the rest of the world to be untrustworthy, but she has no choice in the matter.
By the end of the story, she has come face to face with the largest obstacles of her life and fought beyond them. She's gained confidence enough to believe in herself, which encourages others to believe in her. That comes in handy as the new leader of her people, and the voice of a nation entering into a new age.
It's a tough balance to strike, I think. On the one hand, you have a completely helpless character who, by virtue of their lack of participation, probably shouldn't have been a character at all. Alternatively, you have a character who drives the story forward by making decisions and proactively affecting their circumstances. The character I attempted to portray began the story as the former and ends up the latter. It's the portion where she can't stand up for herself that I believe turns some folks off.
Then again, I hear from others who enjoy Starka's perspective. Her naivety allows for a strict education on the world of The Ninth Avatar and how it functions. As she explores, the reader also explores, and those who can really jump on board with the course of Starka's "education" are rewarded when she triumphs in the end. This was what I tried to accomplish.
So, now I open the floor up to you. If you've read the novel, did you feel like you related to Starka? If not, have you ever read a book where you felt like you completely misunderstood the protagonist?
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