Year after year, Lark has been passed over for the harvesting, watching younger children be chosen. Her city, the only one left, is power by the Resource, a magic that everyone is born with but cannot waste on themselves. Lark believes herself a dud but in her sixteenth year she is chosen and discovers a disturbing truth. She must decide on a future of slavery and torture or risk the world beyond the wall. A world which she knows nothing about.
The din of the clockwork dawn was loudest in the old sewers, a great whirring and clanking of gears as the artificial sun warmed up. I paused as mortar crumbled from the ceiling and hissed into the water below. Harvest Day. This could be your last sunrise, I told myself. If you’re lucky.
The start was rather generic and it took a while for the déjà vu feeling to go away. A teenager who thinks she’s nothing special and a rite of passage procedure followed by revelation. The inclusion of clockwork machines powered by magic came across as an awkward attempt to make it steampunk. Even the city and its protective wall seemed far too familiar to me. But I persevered and at some point it turned into an original and gripping story with a really interesting world.
The world is both fantasy and a futuristic apocalyptic one. Wars have wrought destruction and magic has been stripped from the natural world. Lark believes that humans cannot exist without magic and she faces the consequences of living without it on her journey. I didn’t feel there were huge plot wholes and Meagan Spooner has thought out her world properly, with little things explained that may have made me pause to question this reality. Occasionally there are lapses, when Lark will make a comparison to something she would have no knowledge about. Why would she say someone moves like an animal when she has never encountered a living animal before?
The world outside the wall is tough and Lark’s survival experience is fairly realistic. Although someone needs to have words with the author that cucumbers and carrots will not sustain you for long! A good source of water perhaps, but I doubt very much they would satisfy Lark’s hunger and keep her going for days on end. Within the abandoned wilds, there are pockets of magic and within them slightly different places, some with terrors and some with delights. I loved how magic was woven into this world. Even those clockwork machines started to make sense. One of the pixies starts to become sentient, is it artificial intelligence or programming or just plain magic?
I did not see the ending coming either. A lot of what really made this book for me, would be considered spoilers but I will just say give it a go and read past the lacklustre start. The ending is open enough for another book (yes please) but doesn’t leave a gaping hole in the plot. There is a conclusion!
Skylark is due to be published in the US on 1st October 2012 by Carolrhoda Lab (with what looks like a UK paperback release from Corgi early next year). Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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