Updraft, by Fran Wilde

Updraft Book Cover Updraft
Fran Wilde
Fantasy, YA
Tor books
Sep 1 2015

In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves

Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother's side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city's secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever—if it isn't destroyed outright.

Oh, my!  I have been swept away (sorry, no, not sorry) by Updraft.

I think there's been a bit of buzz around this book - at least, I've seen a fair share of it - and it's completely justified, because this is some of the best world building, and characterization, and action, and charm, that I've seen in ages.  Really.    Fran Wilde has created something amazing here, and I hope she's not about to stop.

We have a strong and resourceful - yet flawed - main character,  suddenly taken out of her familiar surroundings - and all of her familiar hopes and dreams - then placed into a new, not altogether friendly environment.  Kirit is, fortunately, a quick learner - and a good flier.

Oh, yeah, she has to fly. Nearly everyone has to know how to wield a pair of wings - because this is a city of towers, far above the clouds.  The worst possible characteristic, in this place, is clumsy.

Closely followed by unlucky.

While there is plenty of drama and terrifying turns of events,  this was a blast to read. Updraft appears to be made out of positive energy, resulting in a uniquely upbeat, fun read.   If I had to compare this novel to anything, I think I'd have to reach for something like: "Well, what if Roald Dahl decided to do the YA dystopia thing?".   There aren't giant peaches or telekinetic little girls or big friendly giants, but the world presented in Updraft has that level of invention and wonder.

(And, you know, coming from someone who read her Matilda to pieces in childhood, this is considered significant praise!)

Yes, yes, yes! You want to read this. Especially if you share my fondness for city fiction - books about cities that are at least as interesting as main characters. Read! Unless you want grimdark, but if you wanted grimdark that was grim and dark, you wouldn't even be looking at this bright cover and the accompanying blurbs. Obviously.

(I see a bunch of people on goodreads have shelved this as steampunk. Really, now? Because there's a pair of goggles in there? )

Cities and thrones, by Carrie Patel

Cities and thrones Book Cover Cities and thrones
Recoletta #2
Carrie Patel
Mystery, dystopian, speculative
Angry robot
July 7 2015

In the fantastical, gaslit underground city of Recoletta, oligarchs from foreign states and revolutionaries from the farming communes vie for power in the wake of the city’s coup. The dark, forbidden knowledge of how the city came to be founded has been released into the world for all to read, and now someone must pay.

Inspector Liesl Malone is on her toes, trying to keep the peace, and Arnault’s spy ring is more active than ever. Has the city’s increased access to knowledge put the citizens in even more danger? Allegiances change, long-held beliefs are adjusted, and things are about to get messy.

I'm very happy to return to the tunnels of Recoletta, after getting to know the city in the previous book, The buried life.  In Cities and thrones, the story picks up where it left off, and will not be an optimal read if you didn't read the first book. (And, really, it's a fast and fun read, so why wouldn't you?)

Not only do we return to Recoletta - we get to see some of the rest of the world, too.  Some have fled from Sato's revolution to seek refuge in other cities, like the somewhat Arab-decorated city of Medina.   Between these, there are whole communities of odd people who choose to dwell above-ground.  Here, the victorian-esque class society becomes quite caricatured, and tensions are high.

I've seen a lot of people describe Recoletta as steampunk, but I'm not so sure. I don't think a sense of old-timey aristocracy is enough to wedge a story onto that shelf.  That said, it remains difficult to sort this book onto either the science fiction or the fantasy shelf - it reads mostly like an urban fantasy police procedural kind of thing (though Cities and thrones is much heavier on the political scheming),  but the story keeps hinting at Recoletta being a city found in the future, post-whateveritwas.

I'm obviously going to hurry to read the next book when it arrives, because I direly want to know what happened in this world's history.  Almost as much as the characters themselves want to obtain that information, probably.

Jane Lin remains an interesting character - at least as long as she's held up next to inspector Malone's stark moral alignment.  Jane appears kind, compassionate - but doesn't hesitate to move into moral shades of gray as her situation changes.   She's refreshingly complex, but stable - which is a treat in an action-adventure like this.

Immerse your way into Recoletta for a mini summer vacation. It's underground, at least it won't be very rainy, right?


Three parts dead, by Max Gladstone

Three parts dead Book Cover Three parts dead
Craft sequence #1
Max Gladstone
Tor Books
Oct 2nd 2012

My January reading choices turned out kinda deity-heavy - good, because it accomodates many interesting things, and this novel in particular takes the whole god-belief-ecosystem and puts it into an organized court of law. With necromancy. And lawyers who really aren't human beings anymore.

If those last few sentences weren't enough to tell you whether or not you'd be into this book, I don't understand you. But I can give you more reasons to start reading - for example, Tara, the protagonist, is female, non-white, and gets to have an entirely non-romantic plotline.  She's extremely competent, but not above a few less-than-stellar decisions.  There are gargoyles.  They're up to more than just hanging around grimacing on rooftops.

Tara didn't graduate with a lot of grace, but graduate she did.  And she may not have known how best to help her home village, but... she certainly tried.  All things considered, she's probably better off working for the firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao.  Even if it means going up against an old acquaintance in court.

Three parts dead  is, you see, made out of several kinds of awesome. Including a city with character. Alt Coulumb and its scarred buildings paint a vivid picture - or as vivid as it can be under all that cloying fog, anyway. Again, a case of "I'm so glad this is a series and there are already a couple of more books out". (Sometimes it's smart to put off starting a series until it's had some time. Take that, pre-order-maniac brain!)

Note: When you look this book up on goodreads, you'll find it on both the "Contemporary fantasy for guys"-list and the "Speculative fiction that passes the Bechdel test"-list. That's cool. At least I think so.

The next book in the series is Two serpents rise, and I... will get to it. I'll probably try to be up to speed for when Last first snow comes out in July.