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Updraft
by Fran Wilde
Tor, $25.99, 362pp
Published: September 2015

Kirit lives in a very strange world; towers built of bone high above the clouds where the only mode of transportation is flying.  Kirit is the daughter of a successful Trader; her mother flies to the farthest towers to bring needed supplies to their tower and Kirit dreams only of following in her mother’s footsteps.  But in her youthful arrogance, Kirit breaks a Law and endangers her life and her tower’s security - she attracts the attention of a passing deadly Skymouth; but in her panic, she finds she has a rare talent to “shout” it down.  Skymouths are invisible predators that plague the towers which are defended by a class of flyers called Singers.  By breaking a Law, Kirit is brought to the attention of the Singers who mete out punishments.  The punishments are severe and may be the end of Kirit’s aspirations and may even punish her whole tower.  The Singers offer a way out:  Kirit must join the Singers.  Against her will, but with little other choice, Kirit does.  They want her talent to “shout” down the Skymouths; but she will have to prove herself in their rigorous and dangerous training.  In return, Kirit will have access to Singer secrets that may answer questions that have plagued her whole life; particularly of the fate of her father.  But other, unexpected, secrets will be more than Kirit can keep when they affect the entire city and threaten her beloved mother and friends.  These secrets will change the very fabric of everyone’s lives if Kirit cannot keep them secret.

So…some very interesting plot devices in this book.  The towers of bone:  no explanation of the history of this land and its people; just hints that these bone towers are living towers and the growth is shepherded by the Singers.  The Skymouths:  voracious flying invisible monsters that seem to be the only predators; how did they evolve and what is their impact to the society.  But lots of questions about this world:  where or how do they grow crops, how do they manufacture, are there domestic animals, and just how high can the towers grow before there’s a natural end?

This could be characterized as a “coming of age” story although Kirit doesn’t exactly find maturity; rather her arrogance and impetuousness are rewarded with success.  Even when her actions bring catastrophe, she is made to be a heroine.  A perfect middle-school book.

I believe I will watch for the sequel; if only to see how the author will develop her world-building. ~~  Catherine Book

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