When a hidden figure hits Elia with a poisoned arrow, she knows the other members of the tribe she’s living with still haven’t accepted her into their ranks. In fact, one of them may be trying to kill her. The chief’s son tells her not to worry, and offers to introduce her to another outsider living in a neighboring village. Maybe this outsider will understand the significance of the artifact Elia fled Above to protect. If Elia can unlock its secrets, she can finally return home.
Elia goes to meet the woman, who like Elia fell from an island floating in the clouds of Above. While she’s away, Hokk, an outcast and Elia’s best friend, puts finishing touches on a plan to bring her home and himself escape to the world Above. The only way Hokk can silence the guilty memories of the lives he cost is to save Elia. He’ll bring her home no matter the cost.
If the summary of the book makes it sound like there’s a lot going on in this story, it’s because there is! People on floating islands, people on earth, people on the moon (who haven’t been heard from in years). It’s a lot to keep track of. The story focuses on several big settings, too: a tribe Below, a desert island Above, a rich home, and a towering capital city.
I loved the concepts of the story world. It was a lot to take in all at once, though, and I felt like the story didn’t have time to go deep in any one place. The setting descriptions are vivid and definitely show what things look like, but it was hard to figure out how things related to one another. Where was Hokk from, for instance? He calls his homeland Ago, but I couldn’t ever really figure out if that was a geographical location—somewhere else on earth? Or was he banished from another time? I suspect the answers are in the first book in the series, which probably contains a lot more of Hokk’s backstory.
Speaking of Hokk. I had a real love/hate relationship with that guy. Sometimes he did really smart things, sometimes he went all out to protect Elia (though it was hard to define his relationship with her), yet other times he did some pretty cruel things. I don’t know. I found those crueler moments to be a barrier for me to really wanting him to succeed.
I liked Elia– she had a lot of spunk and commitment, and often a lot of concern for others. But even Elia had some really selfish behaviors. And it’s not that she has to be perfect. Flawed characters can be really easy to fall in love with. I think what was missing for me on the part of both Hokk and Elia was remorse for their wrongs.
Overall, I thought the storyworld was really imaginative and different. This book would probably appeal to fantasy readers and those looking for an adventure story with emphasis on exploring and piecing together clues about artifacts. I’d recommend starting with the first book in the series, though.
Two cultures live separated by world/distance. The people from Above, islands floating in the sky, have tanned skin, blond hair and an extra, transparent eyelid that protects their vision from the sun. Those who live Below, on earth, have very pale skin and aren’t used to bright sunlight. No mention of other ethnic groups or orientations.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very infrequently.
Brief kissing between a girl and boy.
Someone poisons a young woman and her pet with darts. A chief pieces the eyebrow of his best warrior as a sign of honor. A young man throws a woman off the edge of a cliff. A young woman subdues an enemy with the darts. A hunter catches and skins a rabbit for dinner. Those in Above live in fear of violent scavengers who are rumored to snatch people off the edges of islands. Scavengers don’t exist, though.
The darts used by the tribe have two kinds of poison: one deadly, and the other more of a strong sedative.
Elia learns of incense sticks with a calming effect. After the calm wears off, though, the user experiences anxiety and paranoia. She observes this in others and uses them herself.