Book Reviews

The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Feels like: if The Princess Bride were a reality television show starring the whole cast of Peaky Blinders and Jersey Shore.

Sounds like: “Hung Up On You” by Tate McRae  Listen Here / 2018 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS Playlist

Why? Roving adventure tales set in dystopian futurescapes are usually wrought with this philosophical quandary. Usually the “why” is to tell an allegory of our present time, to encourage discussion about the tyranny of this-or-that, to question the boundaries or the moral implications of technology, etc.

This adventure tale doesn’t ask “why?” but instead asks “why not?” And maybe doesn’t ask it, but rather nudges it at you with a jeering elbow, tells you impolitely to sit down and shut up while it takes you on a ride through an almost-New-York swarmed by fire breathing dragons, anti-hero drug dealers, reality TV princes, and android fire fighters.

Keep giving me this beautiful mix of creativity and literary sophistication. This is what I’m always looking for, and there are just too few examples.

The characters in this novel are genuinely unforgettable. Swanny is a plump and perfect heiress; incredibly sharp, sardonic, and my favorite vengeful heroine to grace the page since Camille Bordas’ suicidal school girl Denise in How To Behave In A Crowd. Duncan (Dunk) Humphrey Ripple V is the reluctant Prince Charming, a debonair internet-era douchebag with a reality show and a set of problematic anti-feminist qualities that will make your face melt. Abby is an abandoned damsel growing up alone on a trash pile island just outside the roaring city; she talks to “magic” animals in her mind and develops a tender love for Dunk, who rescues her from her trash heap and takes advantage of her… naivety. I’m still struggling with the lack of consent in their relationship, but I’ll get back to you on that.

Lastly we have Sharkey the anti-hero, the chef of the underworld chew-drug named “chaw”, the heart-throb bad boy coming in very shy of six foot, very hairy of knuckle, very suave of manner. He wears a top hat and rules with a cavalier, self-possessed quiet that I find superb. Even his murder jags do little to dissuade me from loving him, which makes me honestly question my own morals.

The story is set thousands of years ahead of our world, but with dragons. Two very brooding dragons rise up from the ocean and stalk the skies above the city, periodically setting fire to rooftops, generally undermining humanity as best they can.  But humanity struggles on.

There’s a part of the city nicknamed Torchtown because of how often the dragon’s target that area. It used to be a prison sector, built to give criminals a chance to rehabilitate and re-learn how to be a part of society. Once the dragons came, the city locked the criminals inside. Now years have passed, generations upon generations of children born into Torchtown who inherit the crimes of their great-great-grandparents, born into a system that has long since forgotten them. Sounds vaguely familiar.

Outside the city are the rich families, safe in their castles, beyond the reach of the dragon’s flames. As with most rich families, Swanny and Duncan have been promised to each other in the event that their marriage will unite two long family lines and perpetuate their wealth. After Duncan returns from a harrowing journey on his HowFly (a personal helicopter) which crash landed onto the trash island Abby lived on, he brings his new prized female home with him to warm his bed, though she’s illiterate and incapable of understanding modern living. Abby suffers his fair-weather attentions while navigating this monstrous new world filled with machines, while Swanny prepares to be the miserable bride of this same selfish man-child. (We’re supposed to hate Dunk, but in an eye-roll kind of way. I hate him maybe more than that.)

On the night of Dunk and Swanny’s devastating marriage, ordained by Dunk’s strange savant Uncle Osmond who gives the most amazingly dark wedding speech I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, the Ripple Manor is under attack. Torchies (dangerous youths from Torchtown) rise up from their hellish existence to rob, pillage and murder the rich. Swanny, Duncan and Abby make it out alive, where their epic journey of self-discovery begins.

I ripped through this novel in days, I loved it. It blended surreal fantasy, science fiction, and literary prose without strain. I desperately want to return to this world. I’m already drafting personal letters to Chandler Klang Smith, begging her to write another book occupying dragon-plagued Empire Island. Though the novel ends succinctly, there are a lot of questions left hovering like a ghostly after-image. What of Swanny’s ingrown teeth, consuming her organs with their bone and bite? What of Abby’s sacrificial powers, her dive into oblivion? What of Sharkey’s disconsolate walk into a flame engulfed chawhouse? What of Dunk’s depressing parallels with problematic masculinity derived of internet culture, and his inability to actually grow?

Keep giving me this beautiful mix of creativity and literary sophistication. This is what I’m always looking for, and there are just too few examples.

Memorable Quotes:

“[The city] is a system we plug into…a system that we are. As that system fails, we fail too, by degrees. Abandoning it would mean abandoning ourselves. So instead, we stay. We wait for the buses that never come. We walk the streets at night, but we are never alone. The dragons fly above, unleashed.”

“We believe that we love the places where we live, but this is only an illusion. It is never a place we long for, but a time.”

“This is a story of inheritance–of what parents leave to their children, the curses and the gifts. Of how our families call us home, even when return would mean forsaking everything we have.”

I received this book from Penguin Random House through Blogging for Books for an honest review. 

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