Updraft ★★★★★

This book was pressed into my hands by a coworker, who swore it was amazing. In case the 5 star rating didn’t make it clear, she was right.

This book grabbed me right out of the gate. I started it one evening after work, and didn’t come up for air until after 1am. The world in which its set is unique, and complex, and fascinating. I labeled it as “young-adult” because the main character is a girl rising into adulthood, trying to figure out the world around her, and because I would have loved this book as a teen. That said, I love it now, as an adult. This book is in no way simple, or childish, it merely could speak to a very broad audience.

There is something absolutely intriguing about the world in which Kirit lives. Society is a bit broken, damaged, and disconnected. People live in organically growing bone-like towers, in townships high above the clouds. In fact, solid ground isn’t something anyone has ever touched, or even remembered. Fran Wilde is so brilliant at making this notable and different and immersive to the reader, but the characters themselves don’t note it at all. Why would they? It’s not the world they live in, there’s no reason for them to comment on it.

People in this world travel with mechanical wings. Passing the tests to earn the right to fly further abroad, between towers, is a transition into adulthood. They live in fear of invisible monsters, Skymouthes, who travel the skies swallowing citizens. Their society has a long memory of tragic pasts, and live under pretty harsh rules to stay “safe,” follow the laws, and protect the city. Tradition is everything.

There’s a pretty heavy element of classism in this society, the higher you live in your tower, the more important you are. The organic bone towers slowly grow, and as they do the lower apartments get smaller and smaller. In addition, people merely toss their refuse out into the air, so the lower you are the more trash is effectively thrown on your head. People progress by moving into new levels that appear very rarely at the top of the tower, and so lower levels are abandoned as they get too small and dirty. A tower also gains benefits by being closer to the center of the “city.” If your tower is deemed worthy, it might earn a bridge connecting it to a nearby tower, thus increasing trade, communication and travel.

Kirit’s mother is a trader: a lofty role (haha, I’m so funny) for someone who delivers goods and makes deals between towers all across the city. Its a dangerous job to fly such distances, but a glamorous one, for if a trader is good at barter, they will increase the wealth and the luxuries of their tower. Kirit and Ezarit recently gained the highest level in their tower. Kirit’s father disappeared many years ago, and so they were labeled as an unlucky family (the worst of epithets) and considered “lower level.” But Ezarit traveled to the center of the city, the Spire, and “made a deal” to earn her and her daughter the right to live in the highest level. And then, of course, everything changed…

Like I said, this book grabbed me, and didn’t let me go. The characters are compelling and real, the world is so different and creative, the pacing is perfect, the themes feel “right.” And best of all? No love triangles. See, young adult books without love triangles are out there, and hopefully they’re changing the market.

A final note: The copy I borrowed from friend actually had a completely different cover, but poking around on goodreads led me to this amazing cover art for what must be the 2nd edition of the book that hasn’t come out yet. Not that the other cover was bad, but this one actually feels like art. The water color effects, the feeling of “lift,” the tower coming out of the fog, and yes, the main character is not white! She’s gorgeous, she’s powerful, perched about to fly!

This book is excellent! Please read it.

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