Monday, July 16, 2012
Vis in magia, in vita vi. In magic there is power, and in power, life.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city.
Lark did not expect to become the City's power supply.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she's ever known...or face a fate more unimaginable than death. (Meagan Spooner)
SKYLARK is a bumrush of intensity from the very beginning, throwing Lark Ainsley into the middle of what is rightly a conspiracy theory that few, if any, deign to think about. Carolrhoda Lab comes through for me again, delivering a story that doesn't let its protagonist get away with a damn thing and makes sure she suffers from beginning to end, forcing her to earn every right she obtains for herself.
The world itself is vaguely familiar, giving hints that it could be our Earth but it might not be, cloaked over with fizzling bubbles of magic that keep people human. Lark lives in one such bubble artificially generated by what she thought was harvested magic from children but what it turns out to be is a person, or people if the government is lucky enough, thought extinct, regenerating their energy and having it constantly siphoned off of them for the purpose of fueling the city. And Spooner isn't shy about giving you details so if your stomach lies a little on the weaker side you might want to skim through some of the passages detailing what Lark sees, and what ultimately happens to her.
What I especially loved about SKYLARK was that every time I wanted to slap Lark for being dumb someone else was there to do it for me in the story. One of my favorite quotes?
This is Oren and he had me going YES! Logic makes my brain waves happy. And when Lark first tumbles out of the city, out from under an artificial sky and under the real one, the depth of her discomfort is so excellently portrayed that I couldn't help feeling her fear of the sky on Lark's part. There's something to be said for something so simple being so brilliantly portrayed. It's the sky. It's something so totally natural but Spooner tapped into aspects of Lark that are otherwise difficult for authors to access. I believed every second of Lark's fear for the sky as if I were living it myself. If that's not good writing I don't know what is.
The greater story arc, the one about the city parasiting power where they can, spurning some giant conspiracy theory, isn't a wholly original one and I definitely had moments of comparing it to AVATAR (the blue people movie, not the airbender movie), where a seemingly primitive people are harvested for what they can provide to the more "advanced" people, read: seemingly stronger. But it's the way it was written that kept me hooked. The world is an amalgam of steampunk and fairy, melding the two together in this clinking hybrid that was both organized and chaotic, with machines making nature frightening and the absence of magic dementing a person beyond human recognition. And where the story ends is just the beginning for Lark as she desperately comes to terms with herself before she loses herself entirely.
The steampunk is exceptionally light but I do think steampunk fans would be won over by its use and the same goes for the fairy/magic aspect. But combine the two and they're a thundering driving force throughout the story, neither existing without the other in some fashion. Lark is a strong yet at times nonsensical heroine that's trying to get by on her own strength but recognizes her weaknesses. She admits to her faults, begrudgingly, and at times lets her heart lead instead of her brain. If you start reading SKYLARK for any kind of romance stop now. You won't really find it here and what is there shatters to infinite pieces the definition of romance. Really if you're looking for something inherently familiar and grounded in a reality that's both within reach and fantastical with a character made strong by her situation and forced to stand on her own (most of the time) then you'll find it in SKYLARK. Let me tell you how refreshing it is not to have a YA novel of some kind of fantastical type NOT focused on romance. Like being able to breath after being bound in a corset, let me tell you.
Ban Factor: High - Magic in a maybe-not-earth with no hint of a religion other than the magic that is the source of a city's power? Ha! Banned!
Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She's traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there's a bit of every trip in every story she writes. She currently lives and writes in Northern Virginia, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there's no telling how long she'll stay there. In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads. She is the author of SKYLARK, coming out August 1 from Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Books. She is also the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2013. (author blurb)
Stay tuned for an interview with Meagan herself and a nifty swag giveaway coming up later today!