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Updraft by Fran Wilde
Cover Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765377838
Date: 01 September 2015 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Flight is life, life is flight above the clouds. Icarus didn't follow directions, he flew too high and fell low. Kirit wants to fly, but one mistake changes all of her plans and brings her to the attention of the Singers in the Spire. A place where the politics and jockeying make that of the other towers seem tame.

Kirit is the daughter of one of the top traders, Ezarit who travels among the towers. Kirit hopes to apprentice with her mother and prove herself and bring accolades to her tower which in turn leads to better connections and opportunities. She is willing to risk the Skymouths in order to help the sick even as a great migration approaches.

Nat is her best friend. They were inseparable until Ezarit's success moves them to a higher level. The separation causes a rift. But as the trials approach the two are brought back together by one mistake. That mistake will start Kirit down a path she never expected or wanted to take.

Sometimes you need to not judge a book by its cover. This is one of those cases. The cover art is very attractive, but the depiction of a hang glider threw me off of my reading. I was trying to reconcile the visual picture provided with the one being described. Enjoy the cover art, but ignore it when reading the story. Flight involves independent wings, not the locked glider system. People need to be able to climb in the air without being completely reliant on the available currents.

The society is fractured. There are levels and layers in all segments of society. Those who do great deeds or have wealth have advantages over those who don't. Doing well allows people to literally rise to the top. The towers also have a ranking structure as do the professions. Everyone is dependent upon the Singer who travel between the towers, maintain peace and protect the people. Sometimes those in power do things to stay in power which are not in the best interests of everyone. One series of choices is so despicable, that it may be the end of everything.

There are several very intense scenes. Not every tense scene is life or death, but each one builds the world. One of the best things about the novel is that it does not fall into some of the standard tropes. There were several things I expected which did not occur and I was happy that a different path was followed.

This is the first story by Fran Wilde I have read. It is a solid effort. The science makes sense and follows the limitations of a high altitude society, especially one struggling with scarcity. The struggles will continue because too many people in too limited a space and not enough to eat is a bad mix. I would like to have seen more on the crop development and growing. But crops and growing them were not a primary concern of many of the characters of this story, so it would not have made sense to have a bunch of exposition unrelated to the work of the characters.

One thing never explained is why the people took to the trees above the clouds. This may be something explained in the future. There is another novel in the works and there are several stories that supplement the novel and provide the detail that can't be included in the limited space of a novel.

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