Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.
Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother’s side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city’s secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.
As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever-if it isn’t destroyed outright.
Fran Wilde’s ‘Updraft’ is a novel that will stick with me for a long time. It pulled me deep inside a rich, living-breathing fantasy world that is exceptionally vivid and detailed: a world inhabited by a people living in sky-high towers of bone that grow out of the ground; a world where people never touch the earth, but rather fly between the towers on crafted wings; a world where people live and die by their wings, by their ability to ride the winds and currents; and where being “wingless” or “cloudbound”, is something to be feared. It is a world with its own history, traditions, and laws. And it is also a world with its own monsters: ravenous skymouths lurking in the air, almost invisible to the naked eye, but capable of killing and maiming.
The story launches you straight into this world – into Kirit’s world, to be specific – because it is through her eyes that we experience it and come to know it, and Kirit is another reason to love ‘Updraft’.
One of the most interesting things about Kirit is how unsentimental she (and by extension the story) is. A lot of terrible things happen to Kirit, but at every turn, Wilde avoids softening or weakening her character. Instead, no matter how bleak and terrible things get, Kirit is always looking for a way to act, a way to use the situation to whatever advantage she can. She is resourceful, tough, and capable – and refreshingly ambitious – from the first page of the story, and instead of changing that, ‘Updraft’ explores how she ends up using those strengths in a much different way than she initially imagined: to shape her own life and the world around her.
While I really like the physical world Wilde has invented in ‘Updraft’, what I like even more is the society that exists within that world. ‘Updraft’ deftly explores the inner workings of this society: its often harsh social rules and laws; how people deal with conflict and dissension; its punishments and rewards; the loyalties to towers and family; and the hard choices that have to be made in a world with limited space and resources: where do the old and infirm end up? what happens to law-breakers? The secretive world of the Singers is maybe the most fascinating part of this society, and the deeper Kirit goes into that hidden world, the better and more gripping the book gets.
Another thing I like about ‘Updraft’ is Wilde’s prose: it’s inventive and carefully crafted to fit the world. Wilde wrote a great piece for tor.com about the importance of language, and it’s well worth a read: ‘Change The Language, Change The World’.
The sequel to ‘Updraft’ is called ‘Cloudbound’ and will be published later in 2016: I can’t wait to go back to the bone towers, and the Singers, and to Kirit.
- Get it at Amazon: Updraft, by Fran Wilde