Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Take Back the Skies (Lucy Saxon)

Take Back the Skies
Title: Take Back the Skies
Series: Take Back the Skies, Book 1
Author: Lucy Saxon
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Steampunk Fantasy Adventure
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence, disturbing images, minor gore, child torture, minor sensuality)
Told: Third Person (Cat), Past Tense
Format Read: ARC (EpicLibrarian)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository

Catherine Hunter is the daughter of a senior government official on the island of Anglya. She’s one of the privileged – she has luxurious clothes, plenty to eat, and is protected from the Collections which have ravaged families throughout the land. But Catherine longs to escape the confines of her life, before her dad can marry her off to a government brat and trap her forever.

So Catherine becomes Cat, pretends to be a kid escaping the Collections, and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. As they leave Anglya behind and brave the storms that fill the skies around the islands of Tellus, Cat’s world becomes more turbulent than she could ever have imagined, and dangerous secrets unravel her old life once and for all . . .

*          *          *

Why I Read It: It looked like an interesting adventure story, so when the publisher invited me to participate in the blog tour (you can check out my interview of the author here) I bumped it to the top of my TBR pile.

Series: While this is the first in a series, it has a complete story and character arc, since "each novel [in the series] will be set in a different land within the Tellus world and come together to create a one of a kind addictive reading experience." So it sounds like each book will be about different characters from different countries at different times, so you might not have to read them in order? We'll see.

Setting: The fantasy world of Tellus, where a storm barrier separates countries and skyships run on tyrium, a purple crystal (I think?) mainly mined from Anglya, the focus country of this book. It's part fantasy, part steampunk with flying ships and mechas and clothing with lots of buckles. While nothing particularly original, it was fun.

Story: Escaping from a life of privilege that is not the lap of luxury most imagined, Catherine becomes Cat and stows aboard a merchant vessel to see the world. But when she discovers everything she has ever known back home was a lie, she decides to return home to find the truth - and save her people from a fate she could never have imagined.

The first half was too uncomplicated for me. Cat just decides to run away and does it, decides to stow on a ship and does it, decides to join the crew and does it. There was very little resistance from the story - everything just went Cat's way with little to no consequences. The movement actually reminded me a lot of an adventure video game: an epic journey to new lands, accomplishing random activities (she was an expert pickpocket her first try, c'mon) to reach an ultimate goal. While not particularly a bad thing, it felt more fan fiction than original novel.

Once Cat had (easily) convinced the crew to help her save their country, however, the story flow shifted in the second half. While things still came too easily most of the time, the adventure became more intense and engrossing - and dark. The first half felt very light and playful, the Young Adult tag leaning more towards Middle Grade. But once they found out what the Collections were, things took a turn for the disturbing, ratcheting the rating up into Older Teen for me. The characters (and romance) remained on a younger plane, however, so the disturbing wasn't as dark as it could've been. The disturbing aside, I found the book hard to put down during the second half, the action quick and constant. I did not, however, like the ending. It was much too neat, and for me completely out of character. A serious curve-ball was thrown right before the bow-tie epilogue, and I was not amused.

Characters: Cat was a take charge, take no prisoners young lady, which was definitely admirable - she would set her mind to something and do it, consequences be darned. When she saw her country needed saving, she said "this needs doing, let's get to it" and got it done. Realistically, what she pulled off wasn't even remotely plausible, but lucky for her the story was obliging. Story aside, she was overall an awesome character and I really liked her. Fox was talented but a right arse, blaming his misfortunes, and the country's, and anything else he could think of on Cat and her privileged life at the drop of a hat. Still wondering how they ended up an item. Despite his major flaws though, I guess I liked him okay. Loved Matt and Ben (and still wondering if they weren't more than just childhood friends). Did not like James, but given the circumstances I'm sure very few will, poor guy.

Romantic Relationship: That saying about "a thin line between love and hate" definitely applied to the romance in this book. Fox hated Cat a little too much for the love to make sense most of the time, but I guess if you add the saying about "you can't help who you love" into the mix, it balances out. When I didn't think about how much he hated her, they were a cute couple.

Writing: British, which essentially means a laxness of the strict rules most American novels follow. Sentences weren't always formatted in a way my brain could process, including punctuation, and while the viewpoint was supposedly Third Person Singular from Cat's perspective we occasionally knew a little more about other characters' feelings and reactions than we really should have. Essentially, while we speak the same language in theory, British storytelling can be a whole other beast to American storytelling, so I'm sure most of the blame can be laid on my American storytelling-trained sensibilities.

Conclusion: While the Older Teen storyline paired with Middle Grade characters and romance made for a somewhat unbalanced book, from a basic entertainment standpoint it was a pretty good read. I'll give the next book in the series a peek, just to see where Lucy is going with this. Would recommend for people who like uncomplicated adventure stories simply for adventure's sake, possibly for younger teens if they have strong stomachs.

Scribble Rating
3 of 5 Scribbles

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