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Hilary T. Smith
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Bryan Peterson

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)

Under the Never Sky  - Veronica Rossi This kind of review never fails to bring out my shifty, shyster side. (Yes, I certainly do have one). I tend to think of my reviews for this genre as shoddily assembled, incoherent rambles. And I use the word “genre” there without a modifier because if you take a peek at my shelves for this book, you’ll see that I have absolutely no idea where to put it. That’s right, I probably couldn’t tell the difference between speculative and sci-fi if they walked up to me on the street and punched me in the face. Let’s just say, I’m out of my comfort zone here. So I do my best to distract people from my complete lack of knowledge with a barrage of emotional response and long tangents.Look, over there! Adverbs!! *runs away*Whenever I get the chance to read an entire book in one sitting, I inevitably emerge from it feeling a little drunk and disoriented. Not drunk and disorderly, although that’s happened after some books. Surfacing too quickly after being submerged in a foreign fictional world, I find myself in a bit of a daze, squinting at my flatmate like I can’t remember who she is and having to be reminded to “use my words”. I loved the experience of being in the world Veronica Rossi has created in Under the Never Sky. She drops the reader in with little in the way of backstory or explanation, to an extent leaving them to stumble around blind and gradually get a feel for the place. But for me, this wasn’t a frustrating experience. It was intriguing - I needed to know more, to push on, to search out answers in the text. And the detail that Rossi does provide is fascinating. She’s taken some familiar concepts and put her own unique slant on them, pushing together two very different worlds to create a setting of extremes. I’m poorly equipped to examine the technical strengths and weaknesses of Rossi’s worldbuilding, as I’ve already admitted upfront this genre is not exactly my strong point. However from a lay perspective (so to speak), the world of Under the Never Sky reminds me a little of Blood Red Road. Not in that the settings are strikingly similar, but in the sense that both are rich with atmosphere and a curious blend of familiar and strange. The Outside, or the Death Shop, is definitely better realised than Reverie, but that’s probably attributable to the simple fact that the majority of the story takes place there. Possibly the greatest weakness I found with Under the Never Sky was its opening, and I fear that the first few chapters may struggle to hold the attention of some readers, if not lose them altogether. It wasn’t the loud, punchy, gripping opening I was expecting. The book gets going at more of a saunter than a sprint, and keeps this relatively sedate pace for some time. When the story really hits its stride, it’s good, but the slower build up isn’t going to win over everyone. On the other hand, the characters are so well developed and carefully crafted that they’re more than up to the task of carrying this story. Both Aria and Perry have the substance that I’ve found lacking in some comparable novels. While I didn’t find both immediately compelling (read: it took me a while to like Aria), they are both strong characters and their interactions felt believable. However, I do want to mention that I wish the element of "rendering" had not been a part of this story. While I think I understand how this could work amongst the Scires, I disliked how it detracted from the element of choice and free will in Perry and Aria's relationship.Perry’s story and motivations in particular came across loud and clear, probably why I felt invested in him as a character almost straight away. Add to this the fact there’s more on offer here subject-wise than romance-masquerading-as-dystopia, namely: loyalty, trust, respect, family and visits from “Aunt Irma”, and it’s an entertaining read with some depth. This could be the read-a-thon high speaking, which I’m yet to come down from, but at the end of the day this book is just a lot of fun to read, and one of the stronger contenders in the recent field of YA sci-fi/post-apoc/dystop (just covering all bases) that I’ve read. Although, having just made such a big song and dance (er, disclaimer) over how little I have to substantiate my opinion, take that as you will. As for me, I regret nothing!