Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger

Release Date: March 5, 2013
(Thanks to ATWT for allowing me to participate in this tour!)
Published by: Simon Pulse

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger

A broken past and a divided future can’t stop the electric connection of two teens in this “charged and romantic” (Becca Fitzpatrick), lush novel. Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.


This is going to be a very, very difficult review to write. My friend and I both met Shannon Messenger when she came to our college to teach a workshop on plot. We both had high expectations of Let the Sky Fall, since we not only received sound advice from her but also heard Ms. Messenger speak of her novel with high praise. Please take this into consideration as you read our review, because part of our disappointment likely stems from our high expectations.

--- I have tried to avoid including spoilers, but I can't guarantee that this review is free of them ---

[Plot]

Me: What I remember most about the workshop is that she mentioned that she was a firm believer in having a lot, a lot of plot twists, plot points.
Friend: Me too, and I remember thinking about how much I wanted to read the book for that. But when I was reading the novel, the story seemed fairly linear, and there was never any doubt in my mind as to what would happen.
Me: Like what made their romance forbidden?
Friend: Yes, and you know that [redacted] is not going to happen. With all that sexual tension between Vane and Audra...
Me: Of course not. No forbidden romance ever stays forbidden for long. But I really hope it doesn't turn into a love triangle.
Friend: Me too. And okay, that [redacted] scene? Did you find that a bit unbelievable?
Me: Yes. Definitely. [...] And did you think that Vane accepted his own fate too quickly?
Friend: Yes. There were a lot of things that I think needed more time and attention for me to suspend my disbelief.

[Romance]

Me: I hope that there will not be a love triangle. Ms. Messenger made all those jokes about not being able to say tongue without laughing. She wouldn't make one, right?
Friend: I'm just trying to figure out why exactly Vane can't meet [redacted] before he decides on who to love. I also found their romance to be a bit unbelievable and underdeveloped. 
Me: They were just so teen-y, does that make sense? It didn't seem like a crossover novel to me, because as an adult, I can't imagine myself enjoying it when Vane is hitting on Audra in his head, being like "wish she'd wear that tiny number again." I think I'd just feel creepy.
(Although I guess my friend and I are technically adults.... but sssssh, don't tell anyone that.)
[...]
Friend: A prologue would have been great for their romance.
Me: Like if we had seen one of Vane's dreams of Audra? Yeah. Then we could understand why he was so into her like 20 pages into the book. Sort of like Unearthly--the way we know of Clara's dreams about Christian before she meets him. I can understand wanting to start right when the action starts but...
Friend: Alluding to a later scene in the book or when he was a kid would also have been really interesting.
[...]
*****spoiler*****
Me: Also, I really dislike the concept of the bond. It seems like an excuse to build sexual tension. They can't even kiss without risking dire consequences.
Friend: Yes, and if Audra has been ruining his dates because a kiss is that powerful, why hasn't he "bonded" with his mom when he's kissed her on the cheek? Or has he really never done that?
Me: Personally I can't believe he didn't even react to the fact that she's the one who ruined his dates. I mean, his dates were a great source of humor, but his response....
Friend: Unsatisfactory.
****end of spoiler*****

[Setting]

Me: Why was it set in the Coachella valley? I suppose I'm mostly curious because that was in the original Goodreads summary, and it seemed to emphasize that it's hot, and dry, and oh so sexy.
Friend: Not sure. Was it that there are stronger winds in the area?
Me: I don't know. It just seemed strange since there were so many jokes about the weather, and how the passing of time kept being shown by the fact that Vane's back was dripping with sweat. Were his abilities correlated to the hot weather? Or am I making too much of this?

[World-building]

Me: She must have had an insane organization chart for all the winds and their properties.
Friend: At the same time, it seemed like she used the same adjectives to describe the winds. The calm Southerlies. The peaceful Westerlies. Cold Northerlies. etc. I mostly wish that there had been more world-building. Why does she wear the dress? I think there was an explanation but I can't remember. The braid, the clothing, the Gale Force.
Me: Right, you don't find a lot about those things.
Friend: And why is Vane okay with hearing voices on the wind all of a sudden? I would have loved to see some hold the wind had over his personality. How he was affected by his latent ability with Westerlies.

[Characters]

Me: I liked that Audra was strong, tough, independent, but I found it hard to relate to a character who was almost masochistic.
Friend: You thought she was masochistic? I'm not sure about the pleasure part of it.
Me: Quite honestly, how else did she have the drive to keep moving on if she didn't take some pleasure from denying herself the things that would comfort her, or relax her or whatnot? I mean, I kept asking myself: why? Why hasn't she killed herself yet if she feels so guilty? If she's so depressed? How did she get over her resentment of Vane? I think it would have been interesting to see her go through these emotions and not cycle back to state 1: Audra is a bad person and must constantly atone for the past.
[...]
Friend: I think what bothered me about the characters were that they seemed really adult in some ways and really childish in others. The ways in which they were joined together weren't smooth enough. Within both characters, it was like there were two characters. Funny teenage Vane. And serious Vane who takes charge. And the book flips between them so abruptly.
Me: Like [redacted] incident for Audra?
Friend: Yes! Why does that happen? In three or four days of talking to this kid who she has watched for ten years--how/why does she change so much? Why does she make decisions that clash so strongly with her personal psychology?
Me: I want to know why she stayed hidden. Couldn't she have just been Vane's friend, like how Puck was Meghan's friend in the Iron King before everything happened?
Friend: Also how does the strongest guardian make the most elementary mistake?
Me: Yeah... the inciting incident. It can't be both ways. 
Friend: That Audra is the strongest and most dedicated of them all but does something this foolish? I agree. Especially given her past. You think she'd be more aware of that.
Me: I just wish there was more narrative throughout the book. I wanted to spend more time with the characters without Vane making a quip about the weather or thinking about how hot Audra is. I wanted to know them better. I think I would have identified with them more.
Friend: How is Audra hot by the way? For someone who denies herself food and water to stay strong, shouldn't she be emaciated?
Me: I don't think there are any characters in young adult, particularly in romance oriented novels, that have emaciated figures. But you're right. Given that she does not eat, she should be small and bony and weak. But then again, she's also a sylph. Maybe sylphs are proportioned differently than us?

[Humor]

We both loved the humor of the book. It's always good that there are light times mixed among the dark. Vane's sarcasm was much appreciated in light of Audra's serious, heavy-handed determination.

Here's a sample: "Whoever invented air conditioning should win the Nobel Prize. I bet they could bring peace to the Middle East if they give everyone an AC unit and let them cool the freak down once in a while. I should e-mail the UN the suggestion." (Vane, in the beginning of the book.)

[Villains]

Friend: I was disappointed by the portrayal of [the side villain].
Me: Yeah, I did not understand [person's] motivations.
Friend: You mean that they didn't make sense. Illogical.
Me: They didn't fit in with the world building, and the rest of the story.
Friend: I disliked too how easily Vane had it at the end of the novel.
Me: For a novel that spends the majority of its time telling us about the importance of this battle with the Stormers, you'd think it'd be more epic. That it'd take more than like 30 pages.
Friend: And that Vane would have a harder time with everything throughout the novel. The training was not as tough as it could have been nor was the battle.
Me: I found it hard to believe in the major villain without having felt his power. His name became a name without the threat associated with it.
Friend: Voldemort but less scary.

[Writing]

Me: I liked how her writing voice was distinct from the voices of the characters in the novel. It was completely and totally her book, if that makes sense. Star Wars jokes and sly humor and whatnot. Like how Maggie Stiefvater said The Scorpio Races was her book.
Friend: At the same time, were those jokes and pop culture references always appropriate?
Me: I do remember being confused one time. I think Audra said she had a kaleidoscope of emotions, and I wondered to myself: to what extent does Audra have knowledge of the 'groundling' (human) world? It was implied that she doesn't know that much - she couldn't even buckle her seat belt - but how is that possible after so many years in it, and how does that play into her narrative?
[...]
Friend: Her voice might have been distinct from her characters, but her characters weren't that distinct from each other.
Me: You mean the writing of their POVs. Not their personalities.
Friend: Yeah. I think I would have liked it more if only Audra had those one sentence paragraphs. I could understand it more if the soldier was like no nonsense, strict, cut off now.
Me: It did seem a little ADHD for Vane.
Friend: It reminded me of Twilight. I kept start stopping in Twilight (a book she never finished), and I was very aware that I was reading. Whereas when I was reading The Raven Boys, I kept picturing this entire movie in my head. Here it was like I got snapshots, but they often were similar to the scene depicted on the cover. Kind of generic.
Me: The one sentences really helped propel the story forward.
Friend: But it wasn't the writing style for me. I couldn't get into it, but I would recommend it for people who liked fast-paced action stories.
Me: I think what disappointed me was that the original Goodreads summary-- and even this one now, with Becca Fitzpatrick's blurb on the lush feel -- mentioned lush writing. When you use the word lush, charged prose, you are going to make me think of Laini Taylor. Of being swept away in the words. But here it was like there weren't all that many words. There was a lot of white space on each page.
Friend: I could see the style being very appropriate for her middle grade novel.
Me: True, when you want to move on to the next thing ASAP.
Friend: When you don't want all that extraneous detail.

[Random]

Friend: I'm trying to think of the first thing that would come to mind if I was to mention this book to someone else. What do you think of?
Me: Uh. Uh. Why don't you answer your own question, hmmm?
Friend: I can't answer it. The first thing I thought of was Vane and the blue shirt on the cover, which is not a very good descriptor of the book.
Me: Uh. Uh.... [minutes later] I guess I would think of the Chosen One typology. On her blog, she posted a widget that Simon and Schuster made about her being the next J.K. Rowling, and I could see a very, very slight resemblance to HP with the chosen one ness of it all.

[The Good]

My friend and I had very high expectations of this novel, so maybe take our criticisms with a grain of salt. This review was hard... so HARD to write. We do want you to know that this series definitely has a lot of potential. It has great humor. It's fast paced and full of action. It's got an original idea set in a not so typical place with not so typical characters. And it has a great author, who is one of the kindest and most generous people you could meet and have talk at your school. So while we might not have enjoyed it as much as we had thought, you might.

*feels guilty*

[Edit] Bottom line: If you can identify with the characters in this novel, you will probably enjoy it, but since my friend and I had a harder time with that, it was not as enjoyable for us.

2 comments:

  1. Oh dear. I sort of had a feeling this might be the case after seeing reviews for her MG novel, which seemed to indicate that it was trope-tastic and generally borrowing too much.

    "wish she'd wear that tiny number again." <-- Ew. That is creepy. Definitively.

    Usually I hate prologues, but I was wishing for one on a book pretty recently too. You need to establish why your characters are being so stubborn or obsessed in a particular way, not just tell the reader that they are later.

    WHAT IS THIS BOND BUSINESS?

    Since when is 'dry' sexy? I'm pretty sure it's not. Right? I mean, think about some synonyms: scorched, arid, parched.

    Wearing a dress in all of that wind sounds like a bad plan.

    SHE DOESN'T EAT? And is hot? This sends awesome messages to teenage girls.

    Lol. That quote is funny.

    Well, I'm glad I saw your review for this, because I might have tried to hunt down a review copy, and I think that would be a mistake. This doesn't sound completely terrible, but it also doesn't sounds GOOD.

    What a fun style for an occasional review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh No! I had such high hopes for this! Thanks for the honest review, I may hold off on this instead on rushing out

    Jolene A

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting my blog! Please make sure to indicate your blog name so that I can return the favor later :).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...