4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
*spoiler alert for the first book*
Hooray, the second in a series about a girl who turns out to be part of a race of part avian people who sail around in the sky! It is a weird premise, but for some reason it really works very well.
The first book I absolutely adored and really sucker punched me emotionally. Aza and Jason are such immediately interesting and likeable characters and their personalities and voices came through clearly. I fell in love with both of them very quickly. So it was a complete blow to the gut when Aza appears to have died in the first book and Jason is left on Earth to mourn her while Aza is kidnapped into the sky. The way that was written and the subsequent struggle for the two friends to reunite is what made the book for me. It was so lovingly portrayed and so real. Because this second book lacked that raw emotion, I did not enjoy it as much. It is still good, just not as good.
The second book sees Aza torn between her two lives. Her human family is still her family and Jason is still her best friend, but there is an appeal to living in the sky. Part of it is to help her breathe correctly (living on Earth means lots of trips to the hospital), but the other part is to help improve the lives of those who travel the skies in ships, since their survival depends on stealing Earth’s crops. Some creatures live in virtual slavery aboard boats, and others are hurt by the constant pollution from Earth.
Aza’s sky world is more explored in this second book as she sets out to find a possible weapon, the Flock, that might be able to help her keep her Magonian mother from destroying humanity. Since a world in which bird creatures fly around in boats with bat sails alongside giant sky whales is much more interesting than normal Earth, this was fine by me. The imagery evoked in setting the scene is beautiful and I love the world Headley has built.
The family dynamic is one that is not often explored in YA science fiction and fantasy. The main characters are usually love interests and friends, so it is a nice change to see a heavy family focus. Aza struggles to find peace with both sides of herself and both her families. It has excellent parallels for anyone who is struggling with being adopted, or feels pulled between two different families.
Aza and Jason’s relationship also deepens and becomes more complicated. Jason, having lost Aza once, is becoming overprotective and determined not to loose her again. Aza wants freedom to find out who she really is, so they start experiencing some strain that was definitely not present in the first book. It is a very natural progression though, and shows the after affects of a profound loss sympathetically.
This book is not as heart-wrenching as the first one, but is a good addition in that it brings us closer to the world and to the characters. We learn more about Magonia and more about Aza and Jason.