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Monument 14: Sky on Fire (Monument 14 Series) Hardcover – May 28, 2013
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However, the story is riveting and the characters are very believable! I really hope nothing like this disaster befalls us! The scary part is that it really could happen! It's a volcano eruption that starts a series of natural disasters that we have seen on a smaller scale already, so it is very believable! And plausible! Chillingly so!
Time to ready my disaster bag and include some good gas masks! And don't forget duct tape! Never forget the duct tape!
Sky on Fire can be viewed as a coming of age story for some of the characters. Monument 14 had a lot in common with the classic novel Lord of the Flies, in that the children chose to mostly ignore the dire situation unfolding just outside their sanctuary, and instead confide themselves in their own sphere of ignorance, having fun while attempting to forgo the sense of dread that was on their doorstep, essentially controlled chaos. This is not the case in Sky on Fire, for the group has been divided with most of the children leaving the Greenway superstore in an attempt to seek shelter at the army-occupied airport a daunting sixty miles away. Dean, Astrid, and the few remaining stragglers are determined to remain behind due to their "O" blood-type, which fans of the previous book know transforms them into an enraged killing machine when the victim comes into contact with the weaponized chemical agent polluting the air. The result is a story which places more emphasis on surviving a dire situation than simply sitting it out in supposed safety. With no adults in sight, Dean and Niko must rise to the challenge by becoming leaders if they ever hope to survive and reunite with their families. The added emphasis on survival works in conjunction with the excellent characterization. As readers, we grow attached to the characters as they're forced to endure the incredibly brutal situation that has been forced upon them. It makes the horrific reality of their situation so much worse, they aren't adults, they're young children stranded from their families in a completely inhospitable environment. Younger readers will easily identify and admire the characters due to their similarities in age, while older readers will undoubtedly sympathize with them. Either way, Laybourne knows how to galvanize her audience regardless of their age demographic.
Laybourne's strongest asset as a writer comes in the form of her exceptional characterization. Dean, Alex, and the others are some of the most likable and downright memorable characters I've encountered in quite some time. At first glance, there's nothing amazing about them as individuals, yet that's the key point that Laybourne hits on the nail; they're simply normal kids attempting to endure an impossible situation, which over time brings them closer together as one cohesive family, regardless of their previous social groups. All of this has not changed in Sky on Fire. Both the bickering and endearing moments of camaraderie are present and are still just as highly emotional and entertaining as before. Where Sky on Fire differentiates itself from its predecessor is in the book's overall design. The chapters are split into two sections, akin to the group of children splitting their ranks, with the alternating chapters following the perspectives of the twin brothers Dean and Alex. Dean is once again an incredibly lovable protagonist that everyone can relate to in one point of their lives. I believe the reason most readers are enamored by Dean is because we can all identify with him on a personal level. I'm sure everyone has aspired to be something greater than what they presently are, never realizing their inherent greatness until the moment is pressed upon them. The character is a testament to the inner potential buried in everyone; it just needs a little push to discover. Serious props go to Laybourne for illustrating such a believable and lovable male character while being from the opposite gender. The split nature of the book's chapters also highlights the very endearing brotherly bond between Dean and Alex. It's a truly empowering sense of family that only becomes stronger as the book nears its explosive climax.
I'm also genuinely surprised at how well Laybourne was able to invest me in the romance between Dean and Astrid. I say this because I find romances in young adult novels to completely contrived and rushed affairs that usually fail to elicit any form of emotional attachment or legitimacy from the reader (at least in my opinion). It's no Romeo and Juliet story per say, yet Dean is the underdog that we can't help but root for. Seeing him win over the girl of his dreams feels genuinely heartwarming and it puts a smile on your face. I also enjoyed the addition of actual antagonists this time around. I won't spoil who these characters are, but I will say that they add a great deal of anxiety to the book's narrative. They're genuinely intimidating characters, largely due to the protagonists being young children. There's always a sense of foreboding dread, that any moment one of the antagonists could just snap and end their lives in the blink of an eye. It kept me glued to the pages to find out just what would happen next and how they'd pull through.
At barely more than two hundred pages, Sky on Fire is over in a flash. Yet that doesn't stop it from leaving an incredibly strong impression on the reader. This series has some of the most relatable characters in recent memory, complete with superb characterization and a great emphasis on both fun and danger. The next book cannot come fast enough.
The story is magnificently enthralling, very imaginative, gripping, heartbreaking, funny, explosive, captivating and more. It's just when I realized that there were only two chapters left, I thought...well, here we go with a two to five book series, which I would certainly have welcomed. But it wasn't to be. I don't know why, maybe her ideas and vision ran dry...or, maybe she thought she was dragging it along too far as it was. I wish I knew. I hope I'm not spoiling here, but, well, there was a final rescue at the end that, in my opinion, should have been AT LEAST two chapters long, but wound up being a quarter to half of one chapter. FAR too quick. FAR too easy. I believe the story should have been ALL ABOUT the rescue at the end. But that's just one man's opinion.
With all this said, I do recommend this read to all. Thank you Emmy Laybourne for your ability to captivate a reader and for bringing our minds right onto location.
Top international reviews
Recommended reading age would be thirteen and up, thanks to some violence and adult situations and disturbing moments.
First book in the series was Monument 14 (Monument 14 Trilogy 1), which ended with the group being split in two. Eight of them are trying to get to a nearby airport from where they might be able to be taken to safety. They have a sixty mile trip to make, in a salvaged school bus.
Five are staying behind in the store.
And one is missing.
There's a gas cloud hanging over the area which has a different effect on people depending on their blood group. The ones who have stayed would be most at risk from it if outdoors.
All this is explained in an opening chapter which does contain a bit of expostion, and reintroduces all the characters. So you might be able to get into this without having read the first book. But you'd still be better off starting with that.
This one runs for two hundred and sixty three pages. It has a prologue and epilogue, plus twenty six chapters.
The narrative is split between two of the characters. Brothers Alex and Dean. Who narrate in the first person. Dean is in the store. Alex is with those on the bus. Thus you get to see each group as the narrative flashes back and forth between them.
Those on the bus have a journey that is anything but smooth. And very hard choices to make along the way in order to survive.
Those in the store aren't as safe as you might think, as danger lurks outside. And Dean is still hopelessly in seemingly unrequited love with Astrid.
The size of the bus group means some characters there do stick in the mind and make a bit more of an impression than others, but that's only a minor complaint about an otherwise superb and very readable book. Because the characterisation is very good indeed, really making you want to root for those people to survive. The prose is very readable.
And the way the narrative jumps back and forth makes you turn pages rapidly, desperate to find what will happen next. The amount of tension and jeopardy it creates is amazingly good. Especially in the final chapter which is incredibly exciting.
Just as good is the relationship between Astrid and Dean, which takes good twists and turns and is very believable indeed, with things happening via the actions of the characters.
Although the story does come to a seeming end in the epilogue, it then springs a surprise in regards to a loose end. Which allows for a third book Savage Drift (Monument 14 Trilogy 3).
After reading this, you will be desperate to know what happens in that.
A superb second volume in a brilliant trilogy. Well worth a read if you're thirteen. Or older.
At the end of Monument 14, we are left on a cliff-hanger. Some of the kids have left on the bus, trying to find Denver airport and get help and some of them (those with O blood types) have stayed behind in Greenway (the superstore). One of the kids is dying and another has gone AWOL. So, everything is going a little bit wrong!!
Sky On Fire is told through Alex and Dean’s perspective with Alex on the bus and Dean still in the store. Alex and the bus encounter numerous challenges and when they are stopped by a gang of O blood types, they have to figure out a new way to get to Denver. Not only is the bus unsafe, the store is also under attack and when people realise there is a whole stash of food and water inside the building, they all want in. Dean and Astrid have to put aside their differences and work together to keep them and the little children safe. As the book rushes towards the end, we are left wondering if anything will turn out well for the group.
It was going to take a lot to write a book half as good as Monument 14 and whilst I was excited about carrying on with these characters journeys, I was worried this book would fall a little short. Luckily, it really didn’t! To have dual narration in this book was a fantastic idea – it was so exciting to be able to see two different experiences through two different sets of eyes. It also kept the pace really well as the narrative chopped and changed between the two boys and their two situations.
The characters all go on another journey during this book and it was hard at times to read about what was happening to some of them. When an apocalypse happens, it is likely people will die or get lost and whilst it was upsetting to read about, it bought a realistic element to the plot. Dean, Alex, Astrid and Niko are, I would say, the four main characters in this novel and I felt a large affinity to each one. They made me proud and the way they all made sure the younger children were looked after was incredibly heart-warming.
Sky On Fire had a fantastic pace and I was able to read this book in two sittings, I couldn’t put it down! Laybourne has really got a skill in this genre for keeping the reader on the edge of their seats and keeping the action consistent. However, whilst there are elements of fast paced action, there are also moments of tenderness and reflection where we are privy to the characters emotions and are able to see how they are truly feeling underneath their armour of bravado: it made them seem real.
I am interested to see how the story pans out in Savage Drift (the third book in this series) because it’s hard to know where the characters will go next. The end of Sky On Fire gave an idea of what the plot will be based around, but I will be keen to find out if there are many more sub plots so that we can get some answers to lots of questions I still have!
This was a really fantastic follow up to Monument 14 and I wait in anticipation for the final installment!
Intense and gripping.
The story never has a dull moment!
Reading this felt so real. That something as horrible as the end of the world could happen. What these characters went through are too realistic. Especially when they encounter other groups of people who want nothing but their resources and will leave them for dead. Not only did Emmy Laybourne show a different but violent side but also wrote with an emotional intensity that could only be found when people have lost hope. I also found it incredibly sad that the characters were just kids. Having to grow up in a world like the book’s setting can’t be easy. There were bright points in the book, such as the companionship of their little dog Luna who protected her family.
The book is told in dual perspectives of Dean and Alex. Each story ends up fused together in the end and I enjoyed how everything was unraveled in the end. It also hinted at another book so I’m also keen to know what happens to them all. The pacing was just right, wasn’t bored at all. And it was also a fast read.
Liked the two brother’s points of views!!
Fast-paced and a short read!
Loved the cover showing the bus and the moss.
Definitely a realistic plot!
Overall, the ending kept me excited for the next book!