A fusing of science fiction and fantasy, and all of the senses. The first book in a long time that I could not put down.
If you’re looking for a book with older-than-teenager protagonists, a married couple working through their problems, miscommunication trope, discovering lost history, plant magic, and tackling societal prejudices, this book is for you.
I keep telling my friends to read it. I liked the ARC so much I preorder a copy. Here’s my book review!
I read the ARC for THE SURVIVING SKY late into the night every day until I finished it. I can’t remember the last time I did that. I enjoyed the pov shift between two characters, especially with a miscommunication trope, as I could see where each character thought about the other’s actions and what they thought about their own actions. As someone who is married, I loved seeing the dynamics of an already established relationship and working (or not working) through their challenges. Each character has believable flaws which really makes them human and relatable.
A lot of information is provided in the first chapter, but I felt that the balance between character personality, description, and information was very well done. Immediately I was gripped by the world presented. And after reading, I wanted to tell my husband how much I loved him – not talking to the people you love is gut-wrenching.
I loved the naming schemes. Earthrages for the massive planet-side storms, architects for the people who can manipulate plants and build structures out of them, and sungineers…which I believe are users of lost technology. Sungineeres were an interesting concept, but I felt it wasn’t fully explained – not like architects were. Magic, from the perspective of the architects and what they think it is, is explained by experiences real-time and re-explained by theories. I felt there was a missing piece for sungineers like maybe they harness sun or use solar energy but there’s a scene where they are basically using holograms so I’m not sure what the definition of a sungineer is supposed to be.
There is a glossary at the back of the book which I appreciate. I read the book first and then looked at the definitions to see if I missed anything but I’m happy to report that the author explained the majority of the terms either directly or with context clues so that I didn’t need the glossary.
I really liked seeing Ahliya working to uncover the history to help people like her not be oppressed. And I greatly enjoyed the descriptions of locations, plants, and even the scents of the flora. It made for an immersive read.
A major plot point/twist that felt like the climactic event of the story occurs midway. While I enjoyed the change up, knowing then that a bigger twist/climax point must be coming, this is where the prose started to slow for me where previously I felt that the balance between action, description, and character building was well done. Which leads me to…
On to some spoilers.
Turn back if you don’t want spoilers
Other favorite elements include the introduction of spirit-bonded animal companions. Giant birds, everyone! I’m excited to see where this goes in the series.
Several instances in the book followed an experience> explain > talk about it formula. What I mean is that the event happened and as a reader we experienced it real-time, then had internal dialog which re-explained or hypothesized what had happened, followed by characters talking about it and again explaining or hypothesizing. I felt this slowed the pace down. And explaining clearly what had happened could have been an option vs summarizing and hypothesizing everything the character had already experienced. As a reader, we are usually able to put things together ourselves and don’t need it three times. For me, this made the ending drag. I experienced the grand reveal of the plot /plot twists at the end but then had to read through both characters’ conjectures. Instead of summarizing what I already experienced, I wish it had either explained something new or been more concrete in what it did try to explain. Instead, it still felt open to interpretation and not wrapped up.
Pregnancy was a key feature in this novel. And by that, I mean Ahliya did not want to become pregnant and this impacted her marriage. The fact that she and her husband have sex on the one day she’s supposedly the most fertile seems entirely counter to her character. She has been actively preventing pregnancies all along and to slip up during “makeup sex” seems a disservice to the character and to every reader who identified with Ahliya’s wish to not bear children. (And really inaccurate – as many people who track their cycles for pregnancy can attest to thinking they had the perfect days and still didn’t get pregnant) I really hope the following book doesn’t follow the lines of “oh, you’ll change your mind” about pregnancy and Ahliya suddenly loves the idea of children.
Minor characters I felt were not fully formed. The main character’s sister is on the same tree-like structure and yet they hardly interact. I felt like I learned very little about the main character’s pasts nor their best friends. A sungineer is the best friend of Ahliya but I couldn’t latch on to why as he came off as a grumpy dwarf archetype constantly bad-talking her husband. I did not see interactions that bespoke friendship and had to instead trust the character telling me that they were friends was true.
End of Spoilers
In summary / TLDR : THE SURVIVING SKY combines great elements from fantasy and sci-fi in an immersive read for bookworms looking to scratch an itch for 30-something married protagonists, a sprinkle of dystopian, flawed characters, storms, magic, and so many plants.
If you like this book, you’ll also like Trials of the Innermost. Specifically, the elements of fusing sci-fi and fantasy, challenging prejudices, lost history, and plant magic.