Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)
It took me a little while to get into this story. Talk of airlocks, Outsiders, and pods tripped up my brain at first, giving me the sense that the story would be taking place on a space ship of some kind; so when the story roared to life on a planet covered in Aether it took me a few minutes to get my feet under me. Luckily, Rossi gave me a few pages to get my bearings and in those pages the story sunk its tenterhooks into me. Brilliantly written, Rossi does a superb job of taking something that initially feels very much like sci fi and transforming it into something infinitely more complex and subtle. She weaves in magic, Senses, love, cannibalism, and even a touch of anthropology. The result is a vividly wrought tapestry filled with color, light, and a couple forms of electricity.
Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
I’m going to save my absolute favorite thing about this book for last because I have something else I want to touch on first and it’s pretty important to the story. The world. Rossi build a thoroughly detailed world that encompasses all of the senses in a fully actualized and delightful way. You don’t just see the flashes of the Aether storms, you feel the tingle Perry gets in the back of his nose and smell the burning dryness of the ash. But even more than that, I love, love, love the juxtaposition of the super modern enclosed pod living of the Dwellers versus the tribal survivalist nature of the Outsiders. The whole time I was reading this book, there was a small part of my brain in the background niggling about how this could totally be Earth post-nuclear apocalypse. It would explain the increase in mutation and the enclosed living of the Dwellers. But that’s beside the point. The point is: Rossi did a magnificent job of highlighting the differences in their lives without being hamhanded about it. After a while, you know the difference between the smell of the pods versus the smell of the open air by the sea. It’s exceptionally well written.
Side-Nerd-Note: I completely loved the genetics that Rossi worked into the story. She didn’t get into the sometimes complex details on why the Aether would increase the incidence of mutation or how the Outsiders had evolved to survive their mutations, but she worked it in expertly. There were no scientific inconsistencies. She wove the science in, while keeping it a little vague, which was awesome because it meant that my brain started postulating hypotheses on what the Aether could consist of that would cause the kinds of mutations she describes. It served to draw me further into the story, waiting to see whether she would lay out a theory or let me pick the one I like the best.
Now, to my favorite part: the characters. (Surprising, I know.) Aria is poignantly written. It’s fantastically easy to relate to her if you’ve been seventeen and had a mother at the time. The way she rebels even when deep inside she just wants to curl up in her mom’s arms, I don’t know about everyone else, but I had several moments like that when I was that age. At the same time, she’s strong in a way that I wish I could be more like. Peregrine strikes me in the same way, minus the age and parenting empathy. I’m quite glad that I can’t empathize with Perry’s parenting, but that didn’t take away from my ability to love his character. His love for his nephew is where I can empathize with Perry. Perry and Aria, the tests and trials they have to overcome, yield a vibrant tale of bravery, courage, strength, and sacrifice. This story is so gripping that I started to worry at page 300 that there weren’t enough pages left for everything to happen. I can’t tell you how happy I was to learn that this is a series. Now, I just have to wait for Book 2. *impatiently curses under her breath*
5 ink bottles.