3 out of 5 stars.
Wren lives in a bubble. Not a metaphorical bubble, an actual huge glass bubble that encloses her and the rest of her society, survivors of a terrible meteor crash that rendered the outside world uninhabitable. Unfortunately, life inside of the bubble isn’t great either. The entire dome and its way of life were constructed to preserve the bloodline, and comfort, of the royal family. Everyone else is merely a tool towards that goal. This includes everyone Wren knows and cares about. Most people consider this a fair trade, as the outside world is full of flames and death and eternal servitude is reasonable compensation for their families surviving the earth shattering comet years ago. Wren and her family live almost permanently underground, gathering coal. They are called shiners because their eyes have adapted to the darkness.
Things existed for generations in an unpleasant, but stable, equilibrium, until one of Wren’s friend Alex disappears, reappears burnt half to death and babbles something about the sky being blue before passing on. Shortly after, Wren meets Pace, another dweller of the bubble who is on the run from the authorities.
Between the two of them, they manage to breach the bubble and start a revolution. This does not come without a substantial cost though. Wren is now responsible for many deaths and the lives of the survivors of her village.
This book mostly touts very contemporary views on slavery and equality, but for some of it I got a really weird, anti-feminist vibe. I am not sure whether this is intentionally done by the author as a possible characteristic of a society that repressed, or if Tayler is really confused about how capable women are in a fight. Wren and a couple of other women are shown as strong and capable, but Wren enjoys someone looking at her “possessively” and gender roles are just assumed. It is the weirdest mix of progressive and conservative, and honestly made me pretty uncomfortable. I had no idea whether this author likes women or not, and respects them as people.
Other than that, this is a dystopia with a steampunk feel to it. Because the bubble was formed and sealed in the 1800’s, everything is coal powered and really old-fashioned, but mixed with the plot of a dystopia.
This is an interesting read, if only for the genre mix, but I can’t get over the nagging feeling that Kassy Tayler thinks the proper place for women is in the kitchen.