As space opera goes, Starfang: Rise of the Clan felt like a prologue to something much bigger. It had all the elements of a compelling space adventure: a mystery, aliens, warring families, future technology, just waiting to be fleshed out into a winding tale of intrigue and interesting characters. It still might turn out that way, with future installments of the series that Chng has yet to write, but it was wrapped up too quickly to really sink one’s teeth into.
Francesca Ming Yue is captain of the Starfang, one of the warships her clan uses to enforce its supremacy in their area of space and to carry out its various wars against other clans. Francesca is a werewolf, one of homo sapiens lupus, a species whose origins is shrouded in mystery, and yet not shy about taking what it wants in a universe that has left Earth behind, and yet not forgotten it. Starfang: Rise of the Clan is also a refreshing twist on the typical werewolf plot one sees in the Anglo publishing world, in that not only is it a tale of werewolves in space, but the origins of these clans are Asian, their customs and foods drawing from Chinese and Southeast Asian culture.
Francesca’s characterization, as the narrator and center of the story, hints at a complex backstory and complicated motivations behind her dutiful assumption of duty when ordered to a sector of space known for black market drugs and shady dealings, but the reader sees so little of her and what people think about her, aside from what she tells, that it’s difficult to get a read on what really makes her tick. As tantalizing as her story might be for readers of the urban fantasy genre who may come in more invested than the average fantasy reader, without a deeper look into her character, it’s difficult to suspend disbelief and buy into the plot.
So, in the end, Starfang: Rise of the Clan is packed with fascinating tidbits and hints at more to come, but a little flat in its current iteration.