Friday, March 28, 2014

The Kind of Sky That Begs, Fly With Me

Let the Sky Fall
~Let the Sky Fall~
Sky Fall
Book 1

By Shannon Messenger
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Vane Weston should have died in the category-five tornado that killed his parents. Instead, he woke up in a pile of rubble with no memories of his past—except one: a beautiful, dark-haired girl standing in the winds. She swept through his dreams ever since, and he clings to the hope that she's real.

Audra is real, but she isn't human. She's a sylph, an air elemental who can walk on the wind, translate its alluring songs, even twist it into a weapon. She's also a guardian—Vane's guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect him at all costs.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both their families, Audra has just days to help Vane unlock his memories. And as the storm winds gather, Audra and Vane start to realize that the greatest danger might not be the warriors coming to destroy them, but the forbidden romance growing between them.

Once you get the inevitable tune of the Oscar-winning James Bond song out of your head, this book is actually a really sweet paranormal romance. Actually that song is a good theme for this book's couple. Yeah, no clue if the song influenced the book at all (I doubt it, based on the publication date), but it really does work well. Huh, go figure.

Anyway, on to the book's characters.

Vane is a very laid back kind of teenager, not really interested in doing much outside of trying to beat the heat and maybe finally pick up a girl. As far as personality goes, Vane fluctuates between unsure newbie to the paranormal world and a pillar of strength and support. I hesitate to categorize him as typical or atypical in his aversion to violent video games or movies, but in the realm of literature he's basically another clueless Chosen One a la Harry Potter. Which isn't to say he's a bad character, but I'd say his backstory and situation will be very familiar territory for most readers.

Audra, on the other hand, was a fiery breath of fresh air. Bound by duty to protect Vane at all costs, racked with guilt over her past mistakes, she's deprived herself of nearly everything. But even when the situation feels hopeless, she plans to fight back with everything she's got. Bad-ass but never brash or showy, responsible but never cold or stuffy, Audra was the perfect balance both within and with Vane. I could connect with her pain and struggle one page, then watch her kick ass the next.

If both Vane and Audra sound like prime narrators, then you'd be correct. The book switches from each of their perspectives at every chapter. At first I had my doubts at how well this would work. I thought action sequences would no doubt suffer from being in one person's perspective over the other's, or that there would have to be a lot of backtracking over emotional scenes to get on the same page with each character. And yet, the switches worked perfectly, giving just the right amount of connection with each character, the right perspective during each major event, and all without practically any overlap. I admit it took a little while to get over the skepticism that it would work out in the end, but I ended up pleasantly surprised at the result.

Another surprise came with the romance. Yes, it had similar elements that you can easily find in any romance: guy and girl don't get along at first, guy falls first and has to convince girl, girl is overly cautious of loving boy because of reasons, etc., etc.. But where so many books (particularly YA) have shown girls not 'wanting' to fall in love, or not 'knowing' they were falling in love, this one has a legitimate, external to girl's feelings, reason. And I was so glad that it wasn't just her being confused or seeing herself as unworthy because I saw her as way too smart for that. But regardless, I loved this romance and fully endorse both members of the couple.

Of course, the other half of the genre is the paranormal aspect, right? How about these Sylphs? I had no prior knowledge of Sylphs and so found Messenger's lore about them fascinating. Unfortunately, most of their lore is pretty spoiler-ish to the conflicts of the novel, so I can't go into great detail. Suffice it to say, I'm looking forward to witnessing more of their politics and natures in future novels. Also, not sure if I understand why there are exclusively air elementals and not fire or water ones, but that's a little enough thing to drop.

And without going into spoilers, I absolutely loved the ending. In a lot of romances I find the characters falling in love and instantly being okay, cause love solves everything. Doesn't matter the hardships or the pain suffered up to that point, once you've found love, nothing else really mattered and it was all worth it. Not so here. Both these characters have had a tough ten years, and an even tougher past few days. And I was pleasantly surprised to have the story, and especially the characters, take that into account at the end. Sure, it also adds some tension to the beginning of the sequel, but it still earns a big thumbs up from me.

Overall, Let the Sky Fall gave me more than enough to get me hooked and wanting more. I'd happily recommend it to anyone looking for a YA paranormal romance featuring 'new' creatures, or looking for a romantic couple featuring a kick-ass heroine and a sweet, supportive hero. No language, but with the major romantic elements and some violent sequences, I'd put this mainly in the high school and up range. Sometimes same-old, same-old can be boring, but I think this book shows that just because some things are familiar, it doesn't mean that you can't find something new. So if you've finally gotten Adele's tune out of your head, why not give Let the Sky Fall a try for yourself?

Approximate Reading Time: 5.5 hours