One of the most-discussed YA novels of the last year is Fran Wilde’s Updraft, the first of a series set in the wild “Bone Universe,” where humans live in gigantic towers of bone and fly above the clouds on manufactured wings. The book has been nominated for a 2016 Nebula and the Andre Norton Award. Does it live up to the hype?
Author: Fran Wilde
First published in September 2015.
Kirit, a rebellious but gifted teen finds adventure and danger as she navigates her tricky and sometimes treacherous world of giant bone towers. After running afoul of her society’s tortuous laws, she must abandon her dreams of apprenticing to her mother and instead work for the governing body in the Spire, who are clearly interested in her. There, she learns dark secrets that challenge what she has been raised to believe, and must decide whether and how to act upon that knowledge.
Wilde creates a world of soaring towers and characters. Kirit faces danger from her fellow humans, her society’s laws, and the air-dwelling “skymouths.” The source of the bone-growth fuels speculation for readers, while Kirit’s adventures pull her deeper into her world’s politics. I don’t fully understand how the society functions, but it forms an excellent setting for YA adventure and Wilde’s novel compares favorably with Andre Norton.
Unfortunately, in a culture deluged with YA novels wherein a Very Special TeenTM challenges the Unfair Rules and Structure of her Oppressive Society, the story feels entirely too familiar. Wilde does avoid the obvious romantic tropes so common to YA– largely by ignoring romance.
Originality: 4/6 I found it very hard to assess the book’s originality. The world is unlike anything I’ve encountered before; the story is very familiar.
(Note: Some readers have noted parallels between this book and Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Green Sky Trilogy. Can anyone comment on this claim?).
Characterization: 4/6 I believe in Kirit, though I don’t entirely feel that I know her in the way I should, given that the novel tells her story. Kirit’s adversaries generally lack depth.
Emotional Response: 4/6
Editing: 5/6 Wilde is a strong prose stylist, capable of convincingly describing the bizarre world she has created.
Overall score: 5/6 I’ve tried to fairly assess the novel. Whatever I might think of Updraft, it has drawn a sizable readership, and Wilde herself is a writer to watch.
In total, Updraft receives 32/42