Title: Heir to the Sky
Author: Amanda Sun
Kali is the only child of the Monarch of the floating islands of Ashra. She daydreams often about the earth below, which no one has visited for hundreds of years, because of the monsters. The Phoenix had raised Ashra above the land for safety, and so Kali can only dream, and prepare herself for her betrothal and her upcoming responsibility to rule. Then she falls over the edge—and somehow survives. Suddenly everything she knows or thought she knew will be challenged in a fight for survival . . .
This book crams so many of my favorite ideas into one little volume. Floating islands, fantastic monsters (and the daring few who hunt them), and most especially the winged people. The setting bursts with vivid detail, painting a wild landscape both alien and familiar. I particularly liked the kinds of creatures that show up, from the well-known mythological nods to original creations. And I wish there had been more of the Benu, as I would’ve liked to see far more of their culture and their history.
I liked Griffin a lot too. He’s bold, capable, confident, but not overbearing, and helpful to a fault. And the other survivors are also good, though Griffin gets the most time on page. Kali grew up in an extremely sheltered world, in more ways than one. Griffin was named for his first kill, which he made as a small child against the monster who had slain his parents and was about to finish his sister off as well. The contrast between the two works well.
So why not rate this higher? Mostly because there are a number of things around the end that don’t add up (and one trope that I’m getting really sick of seeing). First, the trope: I would’ve preferred Kali to be correct rather than Griffin when it came to the Phoenix. I was fairly certain in the first pages when the Phoenix was introduced how this was going to end up, and that’s exactly how it played out.
Aside from that, though, there are a few things that just don’t make sense. A prophecy is mentioned in the last few pages, without ever spelling out what the prophecy actually is (and I suspect Kali ends up fulfilling it accidentally, but there’s no way to be sure). The whole rebellion plot has a very confusing resolution. Kali herself wonders: why those lies, specifically, when the instigators are condemning themselves? And the ending is almost unrealistically upbeat, considering the vast majority of people are going to die because of it, and therefore won’t see things in nearly the same light as Kali does. (Though it would be interesting to see if the addition of engineers, specifically, would make a difference. Griffin mentions one of the chief problems is the lack of people with skills other than hunting, who might have known how to build towns able to stand up against the monsters.)
So overall I like the story, though not as much as I would’ve liked to have liked it. Kali takes forever to catch on to a few things that are rather obvious, and some pieces of history remain unknown that might’ve been interesting additions to the plot (mostly about the Benu. How did they survive before the islands? How did anyone survive long enough to get to the islands? Why aren’t there more traces?) But it was still a good read. I rate this book Recommended.