Updraft by Fran Wilde

Posted On 1 September 2015

Filed under Fran Wilde, Updraft

Comments Dropped 16 responses

Updraft is an intriguing debut novel set in a very unique world.

The people in this world live above the clouds, the ground a distant memory.  They live in towers of living bone, the more important families living at the top.  Some of the towers are connected by bridges but mostly people traverse the city by flying.  They have their own wings, similar to hang gliding and use the air currents to traverse between towers.  The younger people have to pass flying examinations.  This is almost like a right of passage earning them their ‘wings’ and the ability to travel the skies and choose a profession of their choice.  The young protagonist of the piece, Kirit, is looking forward to her exam, well, she’s also mostly terrified as well, but she has plans.  She wants to become an apprentice to her mother, a well respected trader.  Unfortunately her best laid plans are about to stumble.

The city above the sky is ruled by many strict laws laid down by those within the Spire (the tallest tower in the City).  Singers.  These are the people who protect the City singing laws that dictate how to behave.  Laws that range from keeping within closed shutters during certain hours of the day to rules on how to trade.  One of the biggest threats to the people is the Skymouths – massive, serpent like monsters with tentacles and lots of teeth.  They seem to be able to travel almost invisibly until they’re upon their prey – this is the main reason to keep behind firmly locked shutters at night – and not to use reflective objects!

At the start of the story Kirit’s mother has left to make a trade run and Kirit unwittingly attracts the attention of a Skymouth, she also manages to repel it and simulataneously draw the unwanted attention of the Spire in the process.  This part of the story is something of an eye opener in terms of the people in this world and how they behave.  Kirit instantaneously becomes persona non grata with people almost turning their backs, she, her friend Nat and her family have become lawbreakers and as such will be punished accordingly.  This is when you get your first glimpse into the psyche of this world and to be honest something is definitely not quite right about it.  The Spire and the rulers therein are a bit tyrannical to say the least.  They cast people out of society quite ruthlessly for what sometimes seem like minor infringements.  And, on top of that, those within the Spire seem to be guided by different rules, they definitely don’t share information with the rest of the City in fact they without doubt keep secrets.  Kirit is about to become a member of the Spire, being taught their rules and methods and maybe uncovering a few of those secrets along the way.  She will then be faced with her own choice.  One of rising to to the top or revealing secrets that will leave her and her friends and family in danger.

I actually enjoyed this story.  I thought it was entertaining and well written.  The plot moves along at a fairly fast pace and, whilst I wouldn’t say that Kirit brings anything really new to this style of story (i.e. girl who finds out she has much more to her than originally suspected) I still quite liked her and her determination to overcome obstacles.

In terms of criticisms. Well, I struggled a little with the world building I suppose.  Why the people were living above ground, I couldn’t really visualise the towers or how people lived and I really couldn’t get a handle on the Skymouths.  Now, that might not be a problem for some people but I felt it pulled me out of the story a little bit.  Also the characters sometimes just irritated me.  Clearly there was an almost mass fear of the Spire and the Singers but it seems that the laws they impose on others have no bearing on their behaviour and to me it just felt like there would have been much more unrest within the other towers than was really on display here – although I can see that would probably have changed the nature of the story.  I still enjoyed the read but I would say it’s definitely a story that you just have to go with the flow with.  If you’re looking for answers or are the kind of person who wants some serious world building then this probably won’t satisfy that particular itch.

On the other hand, if you want a quick fire adventure, no messing about or hand holding, plenty of flying and action and a fairly determined protagonist who, yes, makes mistakes but then also tries to rectify them, then give this a shot.  I found it a very quick and entertaining read.  I would say this would definitely appeal to the YA audience as it does have that feel good coming of age and coming into your own, air punch, type of feel.

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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16 Responses to “Updraft by Fran Wilde”

  1. jenclair

    I liked this one, too, but I also had a few problems with the world building!

    • lynnsbooks

      I’ve been thinking about the world here and I’ve come up with a better way of thinking of the place itself. I’m imagining the bone towers to be a bit like a coral reef now – which I think is a good way of thinking of them, well, it helps me anyway!
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    Yes, it was a lot of fun to read. I do want to see a picture of a skymouth though!

    • lynnsbooks

      I definitely want to see a picture of a skymouth – it sounds more like an underwater creature somehow – in fact the bone towers remind me of a sort of coral reef too.
      Lynn 😀

  3. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    It seems like the the most common problem people are having is visualizing some of the world-building elements. Still not going to stop from reading this, though. I like the way everything else sounds about this book.

    Also, I just finished baking Fran Wilde’s Falling Cloud Cake (inspired by Updraft) from the SFWA cookbook. It was delicious.

    • lynnsbooks

      Mmm, nom nom!
      I definitely think you should read it. It’s really unique and you know, I’ve been thinking about the world here and it kind of reminds me of an undersea world – that isn’t undersea!! I’m kind of thinking of the bone towers as a coral reef and the skymouths as electric eels – that fly obviously, not swim, and also that have tentacles. I don’t suppose that’s helped you but it really has helped me with the visualisation somehow.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Yeah, a lot of questions went unanswered. Kirit frequently talked about the Rise/Rising and I’m guessing that was the conflict that drove them to live in towers and eventually population growth made them live higher and higher into the sky. There’s definitely a lot of room for the reader to play around with their own interpretations. I’m glad I’m not an engineer though, or I think I would have felt the need for fully detailed descriptions of their wings and their mechanisms 🙂 Great review and very fair. I found I also had some issues but there were definitley many more strengths, and it’s interesting how you highlighted a lot of the same ones I did too.

    • lynnsbooks

      I probably had a couple more issues – but I thought it would come across as really negative and I did quite enjoy this so thought I’d leave it alone. Plus, I’ve been thinking about the world here and the towers and now I’m kind of picturing them a little bit like a coral reef maybe. It’s just that at first I couldn’t stop visualising trees!
      Lynn 😀

  5. Danya @ Fine Print

    I’m definitely intrigued by this one, but I’m glad to hear some of your concerns too because I always get really annoyed when I have trouble picturing world building elements in my head. While it sounds like Kirit is maybe nothing special as a heroine, I am pretty fascinated by a society of towers in the sky…it’s giving me “Castle in the Sky” movie vibes!

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s a great world really and I’ve cleared it up a bit in my head – I’m kind of picturing it like an undersea world – that isn’t undersea. So the towers are a bit like a living coral reef almost? Well, it helped me.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Tracy Terry

    Having seen your guest post on Postcards From Asia I thought I’d drop by and say hello. Loving your blog even if it has meant my wish list has grown that bit more.

    • lynnsbooks

      I also have a super long wish list that some times I just go and look at!
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Lynn 😀

  7. August brings the sheaves of corn… |

    […] Updraft by Fran Wilde […]

  8. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I plan on reading this one soon. And a quick entertaining read sounds great (I shall go in with no further expectations) 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      I definitely think it’s worth a read to be honest. I think the world is very original and now I’ve got my head around maybe what it looks like I feel a bit happier.
      Lynn 😀

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