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Updraft – Fran Wilde

Well, this book was absolutely wonderful. It also happens to be the first “galley” I received from Tor/Forge (which is unbelievable, and feels like the greatest achievement of this website) through NetGalley. So, thanks NetGalley and Tor!

If Fran Wilde’s debut novel is any indication of what’s to come from her, she’s going to have a prominent space on the bookshelves in my home. Updraft is fantastic. The setting is rich, interesting, and mysterious, and is as much a character as the (well-written) characters in Updraft, the unfolding mystery of which plays a pivotal role in the story, though much is left to the imagination,.

Updraft takes place in a city the sky, built of impossibly large towers, grown of living bone. The humans living there have long forgotten — or perhaps never even knew — the world beneath the clouds. Their society is governed by a complex set of Laws — which are part of the oral history and education of children, — which, when broken, are punishable by the administration of weighted bone plaques. Why weighted plaques? The lives (and livelihoods) of the people are made and broken by their ability to fly, using sophisticated personal flying contraptions (think hang gliders crossed with squirrel suits).

Flying is described beautifully in Updraft. You can almost feel the gusts of wind rushing by you, see the drafts before you, and hear the whistles of your companions besides you as you ride the winds. The skies aren’t completely safe, however. Tremendous, mostly-invisible beasts called Skymouths terrorize the towers from time to time, and can only be stopped by the Singers, a mysterious group that is equal parts police force and spiritual guide.

And then, alongside Kirit, the protagonist, our wings are taken from us and we are transported into the Spire, the mysterious tower at the center of the city that plays home to the Singers. Her wings clipped, she must learn the ways of the Singers to regain command of the skies.

I don’t want to give any of this one away, since I found it so fun to read, but there’s action, mystery, and excitement to be had in reading Updraft. Fran Wilde brings the world to life with spectacular clarity and detail, and tells a story that is wonderfully paced and satisfying through and through. An altogether excellent, highly-recommended read.

9.17.15 update:

The kind folks at Audible saw this review and sent over this sample from the audiobook version of Updraft. The reader gives Kirit pretty much exactly the voice I imagined for her. It’s a strong voice, and confident. Give the sample a listen below, and if you enjoyed it, consider downloading it.

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