{Review} UPDRAFT by Fran Wilde

Live in the Philadelphia area?
Next Saturday, November 12th, at 2 pm,
Fran Wilde will be signing at Barnes and Noble with fellow Tor author Lawrence M. Schoen!!!!

B O O K   T R A I L E R:

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  MY MOTHER SELECTED HER wings as early morning light reached through our balcony shutters. She moved between the shadows, calm and deliberate, while downtower neighbors slept behind their barricades. She pushed her arms into the woven harness. Turned her back to me so that I could cinch the straps tight against her shoulders.
  When two bone horns sounded low and loud from Mondarath, the tower nearest ours, she stiffened. I paused as well, trying to see through the shutters' holes. She urged me on while she trained her eyes on the sky.
  "No time to hesitate, Kirit," she said. She meant no time to be afraid. 
  On a morning like this, fear was a blue sky emptied of birds. It was the smell of cooking trapped in closed towers, of smoke looking for ways out. It was an ache in the back o the eyes from searching the distance, and a weight in the stomach as old as our city.
  Today Ezarit Densira would fly into that empty sky--first to the east, then southwest. 

(pg. 1, US edition)

“You're new. Everything in the Spire is old and always happens up down up down. You came in sideways.” 


UPDRAFT by Fran Wilde was so different from anything I've read in terms of world-building. Even though it didn't come out this year (well, it came out in paperback, if that counts, and the sequel CLOUDBOUND came out...!), this and THE QUEEN OF BLOOD by Sarah Beth Durst both are tied for the most unique worlds I've read this past year. They're so far beyond the realm of imagination, and yet the worlds also WORK. That's the magic of fantasy, right? 

Imagine a world where there are so many dangers in the world (perhaps our own?) that we must climb--up, up, above the clouds, into the sky. How would we survive? The people of the Bone Universe not just survive, but thrive. They live in towers that are living, breathing entities in their own right. They use recycled soil to grow food, have spider farms to generate clothing, and have learned how to fly. 

Kirit is about to take her wing test and earn her wings as UPDRAFT opens. She has been studying and even though she's not the best flyer, nor even a decent singer, she's determined to pass the test. Only by earning her wings can she take on an apprenticeship and join her mother as a Trader. However, Kirit is caught outside the tower and almost eaten by a skymouth. She and her mother are punished for her transgressions, though Kirit is asked to become a Singer and leave her mother and her tower to live in the Spire and help the City. Kirit, however, wants the life she's always envisioned for herself. After her wing test is jeopardized and she's caught breaking more rules at night, Kirit has no choice: Become a Singer or be disgraced. Live or die. She chooses to live, even though it means learning about a life that's foreign to her, one where she started training as a child. The longer Kirit lives in the Spire, the more she begins learning dangerous secrets that threaten to destroy the life the city has built for itself should they ever become exposed...

I really liked the world-building in UPDRAFT, and the way Wilde thought of an entire eco-system when creating her city. I also wish we could all fly the way everyone does in this world--much as I wanted to be able to fly on a dragon after watching How to Train Your Dragon. The world and its nuances became even more nuanced once we were introduced to the world of the Spire. I had a bit of trouble envisioning the scope of the world (Much as I did with THE QUEEN OF BLOOD, actually!), but that's just because I'm not personally great at thinking about rules and worlds so different from my own. So I'm sure that in my head, they're nothing like they should be, but they're what I could wrap my mind around! I also was totally envisioning the dangerous skymouths as those dinosaurs with really long necks (Horrible, I know...I forget what they're called...and I'm pretty sure they were herbivores, anyway....?), even though I'm sure that's 100% wrong. 

If you're looking for a fantasy romance, you're reading the wrong book. There's absolutely none in this novel, though I certainly wished for a little between a couple of characters. But it still worked! And a lot of the time, we complain that there's too much focus on romance in our fantasy novels and too little on the world, so readers will rejoice to get their wish in UPDRAFT. The book is technically shelved in adult fantasy, but it won awards such as the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult SFF, so it has crossover appeal and can be read by all ages.

I'm not sure if there will be more books in the Bone Universe, though I suspect there might because, well...the series has UNIVERSE in the title. That implies more than two to me! UPDRAFT does, however, read as a stand-alone....though you really want more of this world and these characters at the end of the book! I was actually surprised to find out that the recently released CLOUDBOUND is a companion novel with a different main character! I'm not ready to let go of Kirit yet. However, the new main character is one we've met before, so I know we'll see some more of her. I'm excited to pick it up and see what happens next!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: --that one character visits a brothel and has sired children. )
Language: --
Violence: PG ( There are some challenged fights between two people, and there are some scenes when skymouths attack and eat a person, but nothing is ever graphice )
Other:  --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

When I first heard about UPDRAFT, it had a very different cover:

 While I prefer the windy nature of the fonts for title/author on the first cover, I also very much like what is used on the paperback edition!

I miss being able to see this world of towers in such detailed fashion on my version of the covers because I have to imagine it all from scratch. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I prefer the model interaction on the new cover. This looks more like the type of flight I envisioned as I read; the first cover looked a little more aviator-ish.

Also, bonus points for diversity! I'm not sure if Kirit was ever described in the book, but I loved being able to visualize her through the image on the cover!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Fran Wilde
Release Date: Sept. 1, 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Received: For Review

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.