Friday, August 24, 2012

[review] Meagan Spooner - Skylark (Skylark, #1)

Title: Skylark
Author: Meagan Spooner
Series: Skylark, #1
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Format: Hardcover
Source: Giveaway win
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository
Summary (via Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky.

Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed barrier of energy enclosing all that’s left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children's innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. When it’s Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped.

Forced to flee the only home she knows to avoid life as a human battery, Lark must fight her way through the terrible wilderness beyond the edge of the world. With the city’s clockwork creations close on her heels and a strange wild boy stalking her in the countryside, she must move quickly if she is to have any hope of survival. She’s heard the stories that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in secret—but can she stay alive long enough to find them?
Random paragraph: "But that was impossible. Unless--my heart seized--he was like me. The Renewable had said there were others like us, after all. She had said to follow the birds to find the Iron Wood, wherever that was. I hadn't seen the slightest glimpse of a feather, but this boy had spouted a torrent of birdsong like I'd never imagined." (p. 175, hardcover edition)

For me, it's difficult to read a book that's hyped. What if I don't like it as much as everyone else? What if there are valid criticisms that I never noticed?

I knew I had to read Skylark as soon as I read the summary. I've burned out on YA dystopia, for the most part, but this just sounded so darn fascinating: one part sci-fi, one part fantasy, with Philip Pullman influence EVERYWHERE. This follows the story of Lark Ainsley, a sixteen year-old who finds out that she's destined to be used as the City's power source. After a series of painful experiments, she flees the City and goes on a quest to find others like her, who supposedly live beyond the Iron Wood.

This is more of an adventure story than anything else. If you're a fan of setting and descriptive prose, then you should love this. Spooner evokes the wilderness incredibly well, and some of her magical creatures were phenomenally scary -- there's a scene where Lark encounters murderous trees that really stuck with me. There are pockets of wild magic remaining after an unnamed war, resulting in strange and twisted occurrences. Here's one example, a house replaying its last memories (pgs. 128-129):
The youngest girl, who would not have been more than eight, was gazing out the window. "Do you hear that?" she asked.

"Hang on," said the father, preoccupied.

"No, that buzzing," said the girl. Her voice suddenly jumped in pitch, to a scream. "Look, the window!"

Driven by the sudden urgency in the girl's voice, the family tuned to gaze out the window. I did the same, but I saw nothing, only vague, blurry shapes. Whatever they saw, though, electrified them. Everyone was shouting, and the mother threw herself on top of the children, barely a second before the windows all shattered inward and the room flashed brighter than the sun.

The scene flickered again and without warning the two girls were back in the kitchen.
But Lark isn't the only human in the wilderness -- she has to hide from cannibals and make a strange alliance with Oren, a wild boy dedicated to helping her. All this while on the run from the Institute, who are sending machines and clockwork insect-like creatures called "pixies" to hunt her down.

I thought this was a three-star book for a while; I enjoyed the concept well enough, but the pacing annoyed me, and I wanted more strength from Lark and more development in her relationship with Oren. But once she finally reaches the Iron Wood? Oh man. Everything's turned upside-down. There are betrayals, there are some disturbing revelations about her origin, and her alliance with Oren takes a very interesting turn. I was really impressed by the ending, and now I'm eagerly looking forward to the sequel.

Overall: Get it, and remember to keep reading. I promise that it's worth it.

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