Book: “The Other Side of the Sky” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Publishing Info: HarperTeen, September 2020
Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley!
Book Description: Prince North’s home is in the sky, in a gleaming city held aloft by intricate engines, powered by technology. Nimh is the living goddess of her people on the Surface, responsible for providing answers, direction—hope.
North’s and Nimh’s lives are entwined—though their hearts can never be. Linked by a terrifying prophecy and caught between duty and fate, they must choose between saving their people or succumbing to the bond that is forbidden between them.
Review: While the latest book in the “Lady Janies” series fell flat for me, overall, I’ve enjoyed collaborations between these two authors. Plus, the cover on this book looks amazing! There’s a cat. Yes, that is all it takes to get me to pick up your book; be on notice, publishers. Unfortunately, while the book had some things going for it, it ended up falling in the “less enjoyable” camp for me of books I’ve read by these authors.
Long ago the world split in two. The wealthy and privileged fled the ground to make cities in the sky. This is North’s world, one made up of technological advancements like racing gliders to travel through the clouds and powerful engines to run rail systems between the floating systems. On the ground, those who were left behind have forgotten these advancements. Instead, their religion speaks of the Gods who rose above and they look to the Goddess who always walks among them to show them the way. And in this generation, that role has fallen upon Nimh. When North falls from above in a glider accident, these two worlds collide. Each world has forgotten the other, but together, will Nimh and North be able to merge these two once again?
There are a few things that always stand out in books written by this author collaboration. Firstly, the characters are always interesting and well-rounded. Here, too, Nimh and North were both compelling characters. Perhaps Nimh more than North due to the more strife in her past and the particular challenges of her present. North, as a comparison, felt younger and, for being the one from the more scientifically advanced portion of the world, much less knowledgeable about the challenges of life. However, this made for an interesting clash of worlds when the two meet up together, with his knowledge of science and progress up against her ground-level understanding of human nature and struggle.
However, I also started to fall a bit out of the book when these two met up. The questions began to pile up, and that’s never a good sign for my enjoyment of a book. I wasn’t quite sure how the exact world-building worked. On one hand, it felt like a fairly straight forward “technology being confused for magic” storyline, with North diligently disproving many of the aspects of Nimh’s religion that pointed towards magic as present in her world. But on the other hand, there were more than enough instances where it seemed that the authors were also indicating that there was, in fact, magic involved as well as technolgy.
I also struggled with the messages regarding religion. I wasn’t sure exactly what the authors were getting at here, but it began to feel like a point I didn’t fully understand was still being bashed over my head. Again, North was persistent in attacking and disproving many of Nimh’s beliefs. Part of this makes sense as, yes, he does have a more full understanding of the technological side of the world. But much of religion is based on faith in spite of more obvious explanations. So were the authors debunking religion as a whole? I also began to feel bad for Nimh under this ongoing demonstration. But also, there, I started to become frustrated with her own persistence in the face of some of the more clear examples presented by North that disproved her beliefs. It all was too confusing and any greater point felt muddled and difficult to identify.
The story was still well-paced and a fast read. These authors have worked together many times in the past and their writing style feels well-balanced at this point, playing to each of their different strengths. However, it did begin to feel a bit too childishly YA at times, and I wish the entire thing had been a bit more elevated with a stronger message at its heart. Fans of these authors should probably check it out, since they’re still doing what they do best. But for me it was a bit too little.
Rating 7: Confusing themes and over-arching messages brought down a story with solid characters and an interesting concept.
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