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Updraft: A Novel (Bone Universe) Hardcover – September 1, 2015
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"... The world itself is as much a character as any of the individuals within its pages, and in the grand tradition of science fiction and fantasy, the main character's growth and struggles are bound up with learning more about the world. ... I galloped through it to find out what came next.... With Updraft, Fran Wilde has written a compelling debut, and I for one look forward to seeing what she does next." - Locus May 2015
STARRED REVIEW "Extraordinary worldbuilding and cascading levels of intrigue make Wilde's debut fantasy novel soar. ... The setting is marvelously unusual, a city grown from living bone and populated by everyday people who have left the ground far behind; though Wilde leaves many questions unanswered, this only adds to the mystery and delight, encouraging the reader to suspend disbelief and become immersed in Kirit's story. This well-written and fascinating exploration of a strange land is an extremely promising start for an exciting new writer." - Publisher's Weekly, June 1, 2015
Publisher's Weekly Fall 2015 SF, Fantasy & Horror Top 10
STARRED REVIEW "The world of the towers grown from bone, where residents strap on wings and soar the air currents, is captivating. As a coming-of-age story, Kirit's journey to find her place is satisfying, but the real draw is a world that readers will be anxious to revisit in future volumes of this exciting new series." - Library Journal, July 7, 2015
About the Author
Fran Wilde's short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Nature, Tor.com, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She's taught writing and digital media at Loyola College, University of Baltimore, Carver Center for Arts and Technology, and the Johns Hopkins CTY Writing Program. She can often be found at GeekMom.com, on the Chesapeake Bay, in various airports trying to get home to Philadelphia, and on social media at Twitter @fran_wilde, Facebook @franwildewrites, and franwilde.net
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Top Customer Reviews
Set in a city made of living bone towers that continuously grows upward, all the action happens above the clouds. Kirit is the daughter of a trader who, with expertly made wings, flies about the city, as most citizens do. Trouble for Kirit begins during a skymouth migration (skymouths are invisible, predatory creatures who are not usually visible until they open their toothy mouths, which by then is too late), when all the citizens are ordered indoors. Kirit, breaking this Law, stays outside, thinking the worst of the migration is over. One, however, has remained, and has set its sights on her. Unable to get inside, Kirit screams…and drives the skymouth away.
Later, Kirit is visited by Wik, a Singer (the maker, and enforcer, of the Laws that rule the bone towers), who informs her that while she broke the law, he wants to take her to the Spire, the home tower of the Singers, to better ascertain how she drove off the skymouth. Kirit, fearing a trap, refuses to go. She is then, along with her friend Nat, given lawbreaker chips that need to be worked off. As time goes on, it becomes clear that Kirit and Nat’s lives are being manipulated to fail unless Kirit comes to the Spire.
Once there, Kirit’s life is turned upside down as she learns not just the secret history of the towers, but of the falsehoods she had been told concerning her own parents. As she fights to become a Singer in her own right, Kirit must face many deadly challenges, including a power struggle within the Spire that could spell the end of all the towers.
This is a fantastic, original world that Wilde has created. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, “Cloudbound”!
Updraft portrays revolution and rebellion without presenting the conflict as clear-cut. While there was a period about a third of the way through where I was left waiting for the main conflict to reveal itself, the style is light and engaging enough that I had no problem pressing on. All in all a fun and fast read.
If I could have changed one thing it would be the novel's relative brevity. I wanted to know more about Kirit's parents and the family of her best friend Nat. That's mere quibbling, since the novel's plot more than satisfied me.
There's potential backstory and mystery for several novels to follow Updraft, but I did not feel Wilde was baiting her reader to prepare for sequels. Updraft is a complete tale in the grand tradition of New Weird writers like China Mieville. As with Herbert's Dune, this book could be read alone for enjoyment (I only read the Dune sequels 20 years after the original, something I would not do when sequels to Updraft appear!). Wilde's world, though as strange as Mieville's Bas-Lag, remained utterly believable to this reader because the characters speak and act like real people. I don't like heights all that much, but the descriptions of human flight are exhilarating. The book would be suitable for younger readers, though I think K-5 students might be horrified by the Skymouths, monsters that Wilde manages to describe despite the creatures' near invisibility. But what is a world like this without a few great monsters? More please, Ms. Wilde!