Imagine living in the air, flying as free as a peregrine. Now imagine the sky exploding into a bloody red maw, a vicious mouth rimmed with glass teeth. This is the world of Fran Wilde’s Bone Universe.
The series starts with the richly layered Updraft, where we discover a human society living far above the clouds, on tiers connected to large towers of living, growing bone.
Kirit Densira is an aspiring sky trader, hoping to soar on the air currents like her city-renowned mother. She dreams of flying from tower to tower on wings of delicate silk, bringing fortune to her family and fame to her tower. There's just one problem with this plan.
The humans aren't alone in the skies.
Cunning, invisible predators await them in the clouds, hidden to the eye and possessing mouths filled with with dagger sharp teeth. These creatures, called skymouths, are some of the more dangerous secrets lurking in the skies of Wilde's densely imagined and tightly written world. Another group shrouded in secrets is the city's protectors, the Singers, who possess extraordinary skills at sensing and protecting the city from skymouths.
And after a frightening encounter, the Singers realize that Kirit posesses a rare power that they must have. So begins a wild (ahem) journey of being ripped from one's dreams and shoved into a mystery that will threaten the very city itself.
Wilde's word craft is elegant, yet wrapped with multiple plot points and twists. It's a well paced thriller-action piece woven together with a deeper drama about a child's identity as she becomes a young woman whose abilities push her to go beyond the City's plans for her. The characters are living and breathing people with complex motives, all of which Wilde plays out like a master composer, building until the epic, climactic battle. Wilde's ability to humanize her protagonist as well as the villains really make you see the horrors these people face as they come to terms with Kirit's powers. When the twists come and the tables turn, expect to be cursing the betrayal as much as the characters themselves do.
What really made me happy on my read through was the way Wilde would tease out a subplot thread just enough to leave me thinking about it, as opposed to beating me over the head with it, and still tying up most of them before the end, in an organic fashion.
The few ties she left loose?
Well, that’s what sequels are for....