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Jenna Starborn Mass Market Paperback – February 25, 2003

3.0 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of the Samaria trilogy (Archangel, etc.) offers a moving, if somewhat less introspective, retelling of Jane Eyre that is sure to appeal to SF readers with a taste for romance. The product of the planet Baldus's gen-tanks, Jenna Starborn is used to a life of pain and privation. After being educated at a technical school that focuses on the growth of the mind to the exclusion of all else, Jenna accepts a job as a nuclear reactor maintenance technician at remote Thorrastone Park, owned by the wealthy Everett Ravenbeck. She becomes indispensable to the household and to Everett. Despite their difference in stations Jenna is only a half-citizen they fall in love. After a long, difficult courtship made longer because of the perversity of the two principals, the two plan to marry. But at the wedding, Jenna receives a terrible shock: Everett has another wife. Unable to live with him as his wife without being married, Jenna flees to a remote planet, where she falls in with a family that provides help and aid to travelers. She's on the verge of deciding whether to marry another and go with him to colonize a new planet when she hears Everett's voice, impossibly calling from afar. Reader, need we say what happens next? Jane Eyre fans will enjoy tracking the character and plot parallels. Shinn fans will enjoy the way the author perfectly captures the tone and color of Bront‰ while maintaining Jenna's unique voice. Best of all, Jenna's narrative makes us feel joy in her love, sorrow in her despair, numb in her shock. (Apr. 2)Forecast: Unlike Jasper Fforde's satiric literary fantasy, The Eyre Affair (Forecasts, Dec. 17), this novel is targeted primarily at a female audience. Ad coverage in Romantic Times and Shinn's established reputation in the romance field will ensure plenty of crossover support.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Conceived in the gen-tanks on the planet Baldus and rejected by the woman who commissioned her birth, Jenna Starborn finds a career as a nuclear generator technician on the inhospitable planet Fieldstar. At the estate of Thorrastone Park, Jenna finds solace and friendship in the household's staff; she also succumbs to a forbidden attraction to the mysterious master of the house, Everett Ravenbeck, and finds her life changed forever. The author of the Samaria trilogy (Archangel, Jovah's Angel, and The Alleluia Files) has adapted the classic plot of Jane Eyre, setting it in a distant future where money and status divide humanity into citizens and half-citizens, and where breaking social barriers becomes a near impossibility. This hybrid blend of sf drama and Gothic romance features a strong-willed, genuinely likable heroine and belongs in most sf collections.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (February 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441010296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441010295
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,853,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I love Sharon Shinn, and I loved JANE EYRE when I read it in high school, so I was certain that I would love this book! And, for the most part, I did enjoy it, but I have to agree with some of the other reviewers here that it isn't Shinn's best work. In fact, I honestly find myself wondering what possessed her to write JENNA STARBORN at all.
The novel starts out very intruigingly, with Jenna as a "manufactured" human mistreated by the human family she lives with. In this part of the novel, there are some pretty strong resemblances to the Bronte novel, but also a nice twist to make the story fresh and original.
Once Jenna goes to Fieldstar, however, all attempts at any stretch of originality, creativity, or imagination are almost entirely demolished. As I said before, I loved JANE EYRE; but if I want to read JANE EYRE, I'll read Bronte. I was expecting and anticipating Shinn to put her own twist on the basic premise of the Bronte classic--young woman falls in love with brooding employer, who turns out to be hiding a terrible secret--but I was disappointed in the way she followed J.E. so incredibly closely--she hardly even bothered to change the characters' names!
Plus, Shinn is a good writer, but not as good as Charlotte Bronte was, especially at this type of fiction. Mr. Rochester/Ravenbeck talks as if his life is the climatic scene of a really bad late Victorian melodrama, and I couldn't possibly take him seriously. On the whole, in face, the characterizations were not very good, even for Jenna's character. I felt as if the book just skimmed the surface of her life and I still didn't really know her by the end, or even if I would care to know her. She seems more of a passive observer of her life than even Jane Eyre was.
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Format: Paperback
I couldn't finish this book.
I skimmed the first two thirds of it, and then skipped to the last fifteen pages. And yet I have an extremely good idea of what happened in the interim: that is, nothing significantly different from the plot of Jane Eyre. Yawn.
When I first heard that Sharon Shinn was writing a retelling of Jane Eyre in a sort of space opera setting, I was quite enthused, being a fan of Sharon Shinn, Jane Eyre (moderately, anyway), and space opera. In previous books, Shinn has managed to make even things I usually avoid in books, i.e. religion and romance-oriented plots, appealing. Unfortunately, Jenna Starborn isn't so much a retelling of Jane Eyre as it is a translation of it into a futuristic setting. Some passages between Roch--Ravenbeck and Jenna, are lifted virtually verbatim from Charlotte Bronte's gothic romance. Apart from the SF setting, and a few of Jenna's biographical details, nothing much is different. (Well, there *is* that awkward insertion of a sort of feminist Transcendentalist religion.) And some of the similarities, such as the use of the phrase, "Dear Reeder," come across as grossly self indulgent and not at all clever or witty.
Following Jane Eyre's plot too closely does absolutely terrible things to characterization. Essentially, Jenna is an incredibly bland futuristic Jane Eyre, with more interesting origins and a brilliance at science. Her story isn't particularly interesting or remotely suspenseful because every detail is already known to someone who has read Jane Eyre. But-- even worse-- she's not half as convincing a character as Jane Eyre. Jenna's not dislikable, but she's *boring.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Charlotte Bronte doesn't deserve this.

I have no doubt that Sharon Shinn meant well; I've read interviews where she's talked about how she adores period authors, and has read "Jane Eyre" so many times she knows certain passages by heart. But her attempt to 'futurize' that amazing novel is a well-meant failure: awkward, confusing, and overall, uninteresting.

Jenna Starborn is, of course, Shinn's heroine. Jenna has no real family: she was created from raw genetic material for a woman known as Rently (the infamous Aunt Reed), who later rejected Jenna in favor of her own son and never formally adopted the girl. This meant that Jenna was only a half-citizen, or "half-cit," in a society where citizenship status (in levels that go from Five (lowest) to One (highest), with half-cits the lowest of low) determines one's ability to own property, hold down a job, etc.

So Jenna is unlucky enough to enter into a hierarchal society with strict separations between the classes, where she herself is barely considered a person. She escapes her aunt's and makes a place for herself at Lora Tech (Lowood, anyone?), a prestigious trade school, and becomes a nuclear technician. After graduating she is eager for work, and accepts a position at Thorrastone (Thornfeild) Park, employed by a Mr. Everett Ravenbeck (Edward Rochester). The trouble begins when sparks begin to fly between Jenna and Ravenbeck, who is a Level One Citizen and therefore part of the universal elite.

The truth is, I would have enjoyed this book much, much better if it hadn't tried so desperately to recreate the events, characters, and language of the original book SO CLOSELY -- every event and interaction, even whole passages, are preserved as much as possible.
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