We now return to a universe of bone, where humans inhabit living spires above a sea of clouds. The fall of the central Spire has upset this unusual city’s long-maintained status quo, and now a hard wind’s a-gonna blow. Let’s clear the air with Cloudbound, by Fran Wilde.
“As children, we learned early that the clouds were dangerous. Turns out the city wasn’t all that much safer.”
After the dust settles, the City of living bones begins to die, and more trouble brews beneath the clouds in this stirring companion to Fran Wilde’s Updraft.
When Kirit Densira left her home tower for the skies, she gave up many things: her beloved family, her known way of life, her dreams of flying as a trader for her tower, her dreams. Kirit set her City upside down, and fomented a massive rebellion at the Spire, to the good of the towers—but months later, everything has fallen to pieces.
In Cloudbound, with the Towers in disarray, without a governing body or any defense against the dangers lurking in the clouds, daily life is full of terror and strife. Naton, Kirit’s wing-brother, sets out to be a hero in his own way—sitting on the new Council to cast votes protecting Tower-born, and exploring lower tiers to find more materials to repair the struggling City.
But what he finds down-tier is more secrets—and now Nat will have to decide who to trust, and how to trust himself without losing those he holds most dear, before a dangerous myth raises a surprisingly realistic threat to the crippled City.
In the sky-high city of living bone, to fall beneath the clouds is to be lost forever. But Nat Densira finds more in the grey expanse than he ever expected. To survive, he must let go of everything he believes.
This book wasn’t what I expected.
From the beginning I was thrown by the switch from Kirit to Nat as narrator. Since the first book was all about her discovering her special power, rising from humble origins to join the Spire, and overthrowing the corrupt government, she was firmly established in my mind as the protagonist of the series. Not that I have anything against Nat, but he just kind of seems bland in comparison. No secret talent or secret heritage, never initiated into the Spire’s mysteries… definitely a Watson rather than a Holmes, if you catch my drift. And while of course there’s nothing wrong with telling a story in that way, it works best if you start as you mean to continue rather than beginning from the more interesting character’s perspective and then switching away.
But still, fine. It wasn’t really the characters that got me interested in Bone Universe in the first place; it was the setting. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Kirit or Nat who’s exploring the mysteries of the City and uncovering secrets about the world, just so long as the investigation is actually occurring. Unfortunately, that’s not what this book is about. Faced with a vast, wide, unknown world, the characters decide to turn their attention inwards and expend all their energy on pointless bickering. Or, to use the technical term, politics.
I do not care about the city’s politics. I care about the mysteries of this universe. So when the book goes on and on about the power vacuum caused by the Spire’s fall, the new laws being passed to restore order to the city, the procedures of the new Council which has replaced the Singers, intrigue revolving around messenger birds being killed off and replaced with other birds bearing false messages… my interest goes right out the window. I turn to fantasy worlds like Bone Universe to escape such things, and so have no desire to read about it in a book which could have focused on so many other, more interesting things. Instead, it was a long, dreary slog to the end, which finally revealed a new worldbuilding detail: the towers are alive!
…Duh. The towers are made of bone, which grows. Of course it’s alive. I didn’t even realize that was supposed to be a surprise until all the characters seemed shocked and treated it like a dramatic reveal. So, not exactly the type of Earth-shattering revelation that would have been worth the wait.
Cloudbound can be thrown to the winds.
Final Rating: 2/5