Tuesday, May 3, 2022

REVIEW: Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars (book) by Nick James

Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars is YA science fiction. It's not an ARC, but I did pick it up at a conference for free ages ago.


This alternates between first-person chapters from Jesse's POV and third-person chapters focused on Cassius. There's a lot to the world-building, and I'm probably forgetting large chunks of it, but basically this is set on a devastated Earth that's horrifically hot and kind of toxic. There are two main political factions: the Skyship dwellers who live in massive ships in the Earth's stratosphere, and the corrupt Surface government that controls the "Chosen Cities," oases protected from the results of the chemical bombings that made so much of the rest of the planet nearly unlivable. Both groups are after one thing: Pearls, mysterious little orbs that fall from space and can power entire cities or ships.

Jesse is a young Skyshipper on what should have been a simple Surface mission to retrieve a Pearl. Instead, he accidentally crosses paths with Cassius, a young Pearl hunter for the Surface government. The encounter changes both of their lives, awakening powers that neither one of them understands.

I got this for free years ago, at a conference where the poor publisher rep kept having to explain to people passing by his table that this was sci-fi and not steampunk. To be fair, neither the title nor the cover communicated that very clearly. "Skyship" still seems more steampunk than sci-fi to me.

While I enjoyed several of the revelations near the end of this book, overall this was kind of dull and weighed down by its world-building. I felt like I was swimming in a sea of info about this world, and unfortunately it was hard to bring myself to care.

None of the characters really grabbed me. Jesse was the "ordinary" protagonist who found himself caught up in a situation where everyone around him seemed to know more about what was going on than he did. Cassius was the talented and loyal protege of the villainess (and obviously being used by her). Cassius interested me more than Jesse, but neither one of them was particularly compelling.

There were several revelations near the end that were huge and completely unexpected. It seemed like the sort of information that would completely alter this world, so I was confused why no one seemed to be worried about the obvious implications of it. Was I misunderstanding how this world worked? It's possible - like I said, the world-building was more than a bit much for me. Or maybe I understood just fine, and the author just didn't want to deal with any of it until the beginning of the next book. Having your characters realize that their entire way of life is somehow going to have to change overnight would be a pretty big deal.

You'd think revelations this huge would make me excited to read the next book, but for some reason I can't work up any enthusiasm. I wouldn't say this was a bad book, but it wasn't for me. I'll be stopping here.

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