Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi


Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Series: Under The Never Sky (#1)
Pages: 400
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: January 3rd, 2012
IBSN: 9780062072030

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

Everything goes awry in Aria's plan to find out what happened to Bliss and why she can't contact her mother there. The only two survivors of their adventure outside the realms are her and the boy that got them stuck there. Coincidentally also the son of a Consul. With his word against hers, she's exiled to the Death Shop, where undeserved kindness from a Savage with his own tragedy helps her discover the secrets of the world she thought she knew.

The world was richly imagined and executed well. There was a vivid quality to it all, especially the aether sky, despite minimal description. The plot was clever in its twists and entertaining in the speed in which events unfolded. Where the plot seems straight-forward from the start -- Aria wants back to her mother, back into the pods, and Perry wants to save his nephew and lead his tribe better than his brother -- revelations and unexpected roadblocks constantly mould their plight into another direction entirely, but while still paying mind to their original intentions. It was thoroughly engaging journey to join them on, and one where the continuation through a sequel would not feel contrived.

Both Aria and Perry are determined protagonists, with a goal and the will to do whatever than can to get it. This attitude of theirs drives the story forward, while you become attached to them for their friendly and kind dispositions. Though memorable voices through their third person narration they certainly did not have, becoming invested in their well being was effortless and added another layer to the drama.

While both characters were fleshed out and likable separately, together -- at least romantically -- they fell flat. So much of Aria's attachment to Perry was based on her fear of the unknown world, and so much of Perry's to her was based on...biology, and his preternatural sense of smell. The chemistry was literal chemistry. The attraction felt less than realistic and less significant to their development than their friendship.

The solid pacing took a break for the romance. The story evolved smoothly, until a day spent entirely confessing attraction and savouring each other at the height of the drama went on for what felt longer than their weeks of travel. Aria and Perry's relationship was not the most important part of the story, but the actual important part was forced to wait by for YA's token inconsequential romantic scenes.

Rossi's writing style was plain and simple, to-the-point but not without sufficient description to bring the setting to life. This prose served her well in crafting a fast-moving plot, but it left the story devoid of any memorable flair or voice. A story is in equal parts the idea and the words, and I felt like a great plot was let down by the plainness of the prose. 

Under The Never Sky is an engaging and imaginative novel featuring likable protagonists and a twisting, fast-paced plot. An entertaining read for fans of all speculative genres of YA, but readers who lean more towards contemporary tastes will be disappointed by the romance and the writing.