DISCLAIMER: This is a review for Penguin Random House’s imprint Razorbill. I don’t actually have this final cover, I just have the fancy cover-that-isn’t a cover ARC version.
I have to say right now that from the very first sentence I was captured by the voice of Skylar, the protagonist of this text.
I’d like to think the courthouse won’t be a problem. It’s older than my house, older than our school. The mottled gray facade matches the overcast sky, dark stains creeping along the edges of the stone blocks and the grooves in the decorative columns. But I’m already tensing up, bracing against the uncertainty of a place I’ve never been before.
The rest of Ms. Vincent’s law class gathers on the sidewalk outside the courthouse, a few final stragglers joining the crowd. Any second now, Ms. Vincent will turn up and we’ll go in. I concentrate on the building. Eighteen windows: six across each of the three stories. Four fluted columns in front of the doorway. Five oak saplings spaced at equal distances on the short lawn beside the front steps. Smears of red and yellow dappling the once green leaves.
The tightness between my shoulders relaxes.
A Quick Overview:
Ever since her brother ran away and never returned, Skylar has never stopped looking for him. Her resolution to find any clue as to why he left or where he went has had an interesting side-effect on Sky – she has come to notice differences. Shimmering outlines, nausea, an overwhelming feeling that the world is at a distance from her and that something is seriously wrong have plagued Sky. These episodes have affected every aspect of her life, but most frustrating is her struggle for understanding. When she meets Win, a strange boy who is startlingly present and clear, Sky discovers that her “sixth sense” has been right and that her ability to sense these differences is vital to the survival of Earth.
Win is part of an alien rebellion from the future. Time travel, as it turns out, is costly. Not only is it the source of Sky’s sixth sense, but it damages the very fabric Earth (i.e. it is the cause of the ozone layer breaking down). In order to help the rebellion succeed Sky and Win, who is perhaps not as alien as he seems, embark on a time travelling adventure to recover a weapon that should end the alien colonization of Earth…
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to the (very well set up) sequels. It has all the elements of a great Sci-Fi – aliens (who I don’t think are aliens, but we’ll have to wait and see), futuristic weapons and technology that is fairly well developed and, of course, time travel! Crewe has set up a wonderful time travel dynamic, I really love the parameters and consequences that she has built into her time travelling. Doxing is a stroke of genius.
The storytelling is clever and pacing very well done. I think that it is a challenge to explain time travel without bogging down the prose with lengthy explanations and thought processes and re-processes but Crewe manages it deftly. Crewe also manages to make the most of time travel by intertwining history with her plot making this book also fit into the month’s theme of Historical Fiction. Readers visit the sites of great Historic rebellions (Gladiators, French Revolution, American Revolution etc…) as Sky and Win adventure to collect their weapon. I expect that the Historic time travel will continue in the sequels and, hopefully, they’ll continue in theme and with as much action and interest as in this instalment. With elements of humour and lots of cinematic action, Crewe’s writing is a delight to read.
The voice of Skylar is incredibly enchanting. She is a relatable and, in most respects, down to earth normal girl. The way that her specialness is debilitating throughout her life and this adventure creates a tension that doesn’t seem to get old. The way that the confusion and nausea overcomes Sky is intense and her being shaken by aliens, time travel and being caught in the middle of battlefields is very intense. She questions, she doubts, she copes, she gets scared, physically battered and confused all while firmly set in her motivation to save her world (and her brother). She is really quite brave for someone that I relate to so well. Dabbling in the “chosen one” story and the “reluctant hero” tale Sky can, at times, be just a little too doubting and shaky but by the end she smartens up and really grasps the gravity (haha) of her situation and time travel in a very realistic way.
Win is also a very likeable character – he isn’t your usual studly sci-fi/YA hero. I really enjoy his dialogue and thought processes, particularly at the beginning of the text as the reader is just discovering how he and his people think about and react to Earth and Earthlings. I had my doubts about the relationship between Sky and Win. One of the first remarks that Sky makes about Win is that he isn’t her type, kind of a brother figure and, I rolled my eyes because when boy and girl meet in a YA novel… well, duh. BUT! The relationship redeemed itself by the end, and it isn’t necessarily just romantic, which is refreshing. There is an equality and a sense of partnership and support between the two characters. I still think that there will be romance, and I do worry about a love triangle (but I always worry when reading a YA trilogy) – but all the same, Sky and Win’s relationship is well deserved and believable (and one that I am kind of shipping :).
It is a pet peeve of mine when authors attempt to find alternate blame for environmental degradation. Humans did it, are still doing it and need to fix it. I’m not willing to pass full judgement on this however, because I have sneaking suspicions that I think will be confirmed in the instalments to come… but I don’t want to talk about them yet because, well, because I don’t want to spoil it all for you!
The title! I don’t get it. There was nothing else more creative that Earth and Sky? I mean, I think that the word Earth was mentioned more in this post than in the whole book. Ok, the main character’s name is Sky but she is from Earth and Win is, technically, from the Sky. I just don’t think I get the logic of it. Not yet anyway. I think that perhaps this title is good for the whole series but it doesn’t work for me for this book.
As far as covers go, I have to say this one is a pretty safe choice. It steers clear of silhouettes, objectifying the female protagonist and instead choose the setting and speculative fiction as a focus, which I always prefer. I like the cityscape separate from the Earth hinting at aliens. We don’t get too much of a hint as to time travel except for the weird hypnotic ripple which might indicate time travel to those of us who are avid time travel readers, otherwise it’s just an optical effect. I also must say that I am not a fan of the green-y-yellow font for Ms. Crewe’s name, sorry. There always has to be something that us critics have to dislike otherwise, well, we wouldn’t be criticising! Still, I give the cover a thumbs up.
I’m giving this a 4 out of 5 stars. A great book to add to the Canadian Science Fiction shelf! Can’t wait for the sequels!