Review: Updraft by Fran Wilde

updraftTitle: Updraft

Author: Fran Wilde

Series: First in a trilogy

Genre: Fantasy

Received for review from Audible

Summary (from Goodreads)

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.

Review

Updraft is a strange book. It starts with a bang, our protagonist Kirit facing off against a terrifying invisible monster, breaking Tower Laws and getting herself trapped in a battle of wills with a mysterious singer.

Then it becomes sort of standard fair Fantasy boarding school adventures, with bitchy classmates, helpful friends in unusual places, and a deal of sexual tension between the main character and two or more other characters.

It’s funny, because Kirit was all the time wishing for the freedom of the skies, and after a few listening lessons, I was right there with her, but at the same time the intrigue and the politics in the background were fascinating, and you really wanted to stick it out to see what happened.

I can see why they haven’t marketed this as YA. A younger YA reader might miss some of the subtlety in the plot and find it simply dull. It’s not dull, but it is slow at times, and while there are some spectacular set pieces, a lot of this felt like set up for later novels where Kirit would have more freedom to actually do stuff.

That said, the society was fascinating – I loved the idea of the people living in the towers, gradually being pushed out of their homes as the lower levels filled with bone, being forced ever higher, and the adaptions they had to make to survive in this hostile environment. The world is brilliantly realised, and the central mystery about the singers and how far they help or hinder the population was an interesting exploration of ‘versions’ of history and how the way we remember things can influence society.

Even as I finished this book, there was a lot I still didn’t understand about Kirit’s world. Her people live in bone towers growing mysteriously upwards from the clouds, flying from place to place on wings. The towers seem to be sentient, or part of some sentient being, but this isn’t really explored.

Which means it’s a good job there are supposedly two more books in the series, because I have a lot of questions I’d like to explore further. There is so much potential in the world, it would definitely stand up to further books. And with characters where they are left at the end of the book, I’d say book 2 stands a good chance of being much faster paced and more thrilling.

Rating: 3.5/5

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