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A Reader of Fictions: Lullaby from Pan's Labyrinth

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lullaby from Pan's Labyrinth

Skylark, Book 1

Author: Meagan Spooner
Pages: 344
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.

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Blogger Bekka said...

I am so surprised by this review. I read a really snarky negative review on it a few weeks and totally swore it off. I still probably won't get to it any time soon, but it's now on my maybe list.

Cannibals are an awesome source of scary that I would really like to see more of. Also, who is Nix?

August 30, 2012 at 2:58 AM  
Blogger kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

It just confirms again that I'm reading this book as soon as I can :) Stellar review, Christina! *hugs*

August 30, 2012 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

Also, Pan's Labyrinth rocked my socks! Especially because going through its music I discovered Azam Ali (In Other Worlds) :)

August 30, 2012 at 6:54 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Wow, really? I haven't seen many reviews of it. I really liked the beginning, but there were some definite issues.

I'm sort of over cannibals ever since I read O Guilin's books. UGH. *shudders*

Nix is a clockwork creature who accompanies her. LOVE NIX.

August 30, 2012 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

*doesn't know who that is*

Wah wah. I actually got this song from Meagan Spooner's playlist. I could not find anything that felt quite right in my music library. I looked for HOURS. sigh.

August 30, 2012 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Giselle said...

Yay I'm happy you liked this one! I loved the world building and the addition of magic in it it was so cool! I also fond the characters could have been better fleshed out but it wasn't terrible either. Great review, love!

August 30, 2012 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Alessandra said...

This sounds like something I would enjoy. The cover is totally gorgeous; I could stare at it for hours.

August 30, 2012 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Thanks! Yeah, I definitely liked it more than I didn't. Neither of the dudes really moved me, but it was saved by not being a love triangle. THANK THE LORD.

August 30, 2012 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The cover is pretty, though an odd choice for a dystopian. :-p

August 30, 2012 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Lilian said...

I can't say I liked the cover. It didn't tell me anything and had this whole sci-fi vibe reminiscent of Across the Universe's new covers. I would've never guessed that this had anything steampunk in it.

I do plan to read this one sooner or later since I have a bookmark for it. MATCHING BOOKMARK TIME~~~~

Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

August 30, 2012 at 4:50 PM  
Blogger April (BooksandWine) said...

I am indeed a fan of worldbuilding, Skylark sounds legit.

August 30, 2012 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Christy Maurer said...

That sounds so cool! I love the idea of the "monsters" and the mystery of why she keeps being harvested. Gonna have to put this on my list!

August 30, 2012 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger roro said...

i\m a fan of worldbuilding . i have read some mixed reviews. tnx 4 the gr8 review.

August 30, 2012 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger Lynn K. said...

Ohh you got to meet the author! I've been following her on Twitter and her blog and she seems so nice. ;)

The spiky swirls on the cover reminded me of the ones for Girl of Fire and Thorns and Crown of Embers. And before that I thought it was a Iron Fey novella before I looked closely, lol.

The plot is very intriguing and I do love a book with great world building! I hope to get it soon.

August 31, 2012 at 3:11 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I like the cover okay, but not for this kind of book. It doesn't convey anything about the novel at all.


August 31, 2012 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I imagine you'll enjoy.

August 31, 2012 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Cool. Enjoy!

August 31, 2012 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've heard that reviews have been mixed, though I haven't seen many myself. I can see it, but I enjoyed it all the way through.

August 31, 2012 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

She is nice! I didn't get to talk to her much, because I was just a face in a long line, but she's sweet for sure.

bahahaha, it does look like an Iron Fey novella. Now I hate the cover. lol

August 31, 2012 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

I adored this one (and really need to write a review)! I haven't had a lot of luck with the steampunky thing, but this one didn't confuse the crap out of me. I have no idea how she was able to blend sci-fi and fantasy and SURPRISE me, but she totally did that. Also, my heart was totally hurting when I finished the book. :-D

August 31, 2012 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I do love when authors successfully blend science fiction and fantasy. I will totally be watching for review, not that I wouldn't be checking in anyway, what with you being in my Google Reader and all, BUT. I wasn't hurting at the end, because I wasn't super attached to the characters. Oh well!

August 31, 2012 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Nori said...

The world in this one sounds so unique! It also has such a creepy vibe to me. Anything where people have to be considered harvesters just has horror movie connotations to me. I cannot wait to read it!

August 31, 2012 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Haha, there are definitely some horror movie aspects. You'll probably like it, Nori!

September 4, 2012 at 8:39 AM  

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