‘Cael McAvoy dreams of flying….Sometimes the dream is interrupted by the reality of falling’
When we left Cael McAvoy in Under The Empyrean Sky, volume one in this trilogy, his reality had well and truly fallen apart.
Life in the Heartland, an arid expanse dominated by genetically modified corn production, endured by overworked quietly desperate humanity, and overseen by the remote repressive Empyrean from their floating cities in the sky, had thrown up some surprises for Cael, his family and friends.
After a dramatic turn of events, Cael, Lane Moreau and Rigo Cozido are on the run when we join them at the start of Blightborn. The formidable resources of the Empyrean are being marshalled by Proctor Simone Agrasanto. Pursuit will be ruthless and relentless.
Just as the three amigos seem on the verge of eluding trouble, author Chuck Wendig works his magic and expertly ratchets up the tension and injects some juicy dollops of drama.
He also introduces some new characters who add extra layers to the story. In particular, we get to see inside Empyrean society, and gradually learn more of the origins of both these lordly sky dwellers and the lowly Heartlanders far below.
Boxelder we learned in the previous instalment had ‘the tavern, the Tallyman’s office, the doctor’s, the general store, – and, beyond that, not much else but the swaying corn’.
Ormond Stirling Saranyu, one of the flying cities, on the other hand is a place of mansions and opulence. ‘The afternoon sun caught in a hundred skyscraper windows. The many hills with their many homes. Skybridges and elevator conduits.’ ‘Everything clean. Cloud swept. Beautiful. Nothing like the Heartland’.
Not everyone in the dirt below is happy to accept that the Empyrean ‘have everything where we have nothing’ or that they must be resigned to the drudgery and hopelessness of life as they know it: ‘The dead earth. The empty sky. The gods in their chariots above the peasant’s heads.’
Unrest is brewing in the Heartland. But the Empyrean also have their own plans. An epic clash is inevitable.
As change unfolds Cael McAvoy, Lane Moreau, Rigo Cozido, Merelda McAvoy and Gwennie Shawcatch are front and centre in events.
Joining them are some memorable new friends – as well as an array of sinister new enemies. Telling which is which is not always easy.
This second part of the trilogy then is even better than the first. The action occurs in a number of places, not just Boxelder. More is revealed of how this world came to be as it is, but not everything; mystery remains for part three. Female characters feature prominently in all of the story’s plots and subplots – and as could be expected from the writer of the ‘Miriam Black’ books, these women are strong, independent and resourceful.
Most importantly the essence of Blightborn hinges ultimately on human relationships and change, growing up and trying to find out who we are – themes to which all of us can relate. The characters live in a world which like our own is not black and white, a complex world where change happens even when we don’t want it, and not always in the way we like even when we do want it. Confusion, doubt and even fear trouble all of the protagonists in this book at some stage – and those who are the most certain and definite are some of the least likeable.
The book has great pace, a compelling storyline, beguiling characters, tension that’s almost torture, satisfying depth, seriously sizzling dialogue and some wise reflections on human nature and the vagaries of life and love.
Part three of the series is eagerly awaited!