Skylark, Book 1
Author: Meagan Spooner
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Source: Meagan Spooner signing at BEA
Description from Goodreads:
Sixteen year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky.
Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed barrier of energy enclosing all that’s left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children's innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. When it’s Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped.
Forced to flee the only home she knows to avoid life as a human battery, Lark must fight her way through the terrible wilderness beyond the edge of the world. With the city’s clockwork creations close on her heels and a strange wild boy stalking her in the countryside, she must move quickly if she is to have any hope of survival. She’s heard the stories that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in secret – but can she stay alive long enough to find them?
First Sentence: "The din of the clockwork dawn was loudest in the old sewers, a great whirring and clanking of gears as the artificial sun warmed up."
Meagan Spooner's debut novel Skylark creates a fantastical steampunk world where magic has a physical presence, and people are varying degrees of monster. While many dystopias focus on action and drama, Skylark moves along at a slower pace, a bit more contemplative. Thankfully, the personality-filled writing and gorgeous world building kept my interest level high.
Lark feels constant shame. She is the oldest person to not yet have been harvested. People years her juniors have been chosen before her. The other kids call her 'the dud,' 'the freak,' and she can't help but wonder if it's true. Nor can she find comfort at home. Her closest family member, Basil, a brother, left on a mission outside the wall and never returned, presumed dead. We never even see her parents. The only family member who seems to be around is her oldest brother Caesar, whose name is particularly apt, considering that he would do just about anything to advance his career.
Finally, though, Lark's name has been called and she is to be harvested. Excited does not even begin to describe how she feels, anticipating finally being normal and valuable. Despite having very little idea what her harvesting entails, she quickly comes to suspect that something weird may be going on. Why do they keep taking her to be harvested? Isn't that just supposed to happen once? Her answer, of course, lies in the secret room she discovered: she's a Renewable and they're going to plug her into the city until she becomes nothing but a husk.
The City, you see, runs on magic. Cool, right? In this world, magic exists in just about everything, including people. At the Harvest, they're using a machine to drain the magic (or, as they
call it, The Resource, from the children of the population. There used to be Renewables, people who could create more Resource, but there haven't been any born in a long time and the City's magic is depleting. They need Lark's Resource, but she refuses to be a pawn and escapes into the eerie woods.
What's especially neat about Skylark is how many different societies you can explore in this world. At the beginning, we're in the City with Lark, which is full of clockwork and magic. It's got a sort of industrial feel to it. Then, outside the wall, we get to see a bunch of different environments. Basically, the magic out there is all unbalanced, so some areas have to much and others none, which means that pretty much anything can happen. I just loved this world building, especially the changes that the magic bubbles wrought.
If you love reading about creepy monsters, Spooner cooked up some of those for you in her writer's cauldron too. The Dark Ones. I'm not entirely certain what happened to them, whether there was some sort of event or chemical, or if it was just a change out of necessity. Either way, they're cannibals, humans turned dark and twisted and hungry for other humans. This adds some fun spice to an otherwise fairly pleasant journey. I definitely would like to know how they came about, though!
Lark makes a great heroine. Her voice is clear and direct. Her narration kept me totally involved in the story. Despite being a complete newbie to pretty much everying, Lark tries really hard. She's not a complainer, and learns and grows from every experience. Otherwise, though, I would say characterization was probably the weakest point in the book. None of the other humans really manifested strongly to me. There are two possible love interests so far, but, thankfully, Spooner has so far resisted the urge to make this into a melodramatic love triangle.
My very favorite character, though, the one that totally stole the show in my opinion is not human. I freaking loved Nix. He's so adorable and cool and I don't even know. Basically, I want him to come hang out with me. Also, the way the scene where he learned things was just fantastic. He also raises some thought-provoking questions about sentience.
For stellar world building and some serious clockwork awesomeness, go get yourself a copy of Skylark. I really enjoyed it and will be keeping my eye out for the next book!
Favorite Quote: "'I don't want to be kept safe! I don't want to have someone constantly trying to keep me from tripping on my own incompetence. I want to live in a world where I know the rules, where people are just people. Not one where they keep trying to eat me. That's the reason I left the city in the first place. I don't want to be kept, not by anyone.'"
Remember: Every comment on a post during Dystopian August is an entry to win one of fourteen dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels IF you've filled out the form from this post.