Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Published: January 3rd 2012 by HarperCollins
Source: local library
Synopsis (Goodreads): Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland – known as The Death Shop – are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild – a savage – and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile – everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
My thoughts: I had pegged Under the Never Sky as a heavy romance, light dystopian read when I was putting together my “So you liked The Hunger Games” flowchart, based on the description and the reviews I read, which is why I put off reading it for so long. I like to try and balance my reading between different genres, and I had read so many dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels and it’s not like they weren’t flying of the shelves. They didn’t need me to promote them, especially the newer ones. When I finally picked it up, I was surprised to find a unique and gripping plot with lots of action, a believable post-apocalyptic setting, and a slow-burning romance rather than insta-love. Although the book surpassed my expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed it, a couple things kept it from making it onto my favorites shelf.
The first problem with this book is the blurb, which does it a disservice. This in partially due to the clunky beginning of the story. It’s got too many threads to give a concise synopsis without getting spoiler-y, so beware if you haven’t read and don’t like to know what’s going on (I like spoilers, because it means I can better book-talk it without having actually read it, and my reviews generally reflect that). Aria is a girl living in a pod-like city where most of people’s lives are experienced in a virtual world. Her mother is a scientist, and has been working elsewhere. Communication between the two places is down, and in hopes of finding out a way to contact her mother, she follows after a boy who may be able to help her due to his father’s position. Things go wrong. She’s saved by Perry, but when the authorities find out what she’s done, she’s abandoned in the wilderness. She runs into Perry again, but he’s not excited about saving her out of the goodness of his heart. His nephew has been taken by the authorities of Aria’s city, and he needs her to get him back.
Another problem I had with Under the Never Sky is the pacing. While the world-building was very intricately woven into the narrative and it avoided the usual problem of telling rather than showing, the beginning was far too slow. It took 100 pages for the story to really start. The beginning set-up could have easily been condensed so that we got to the journey/quest portion of the book sooner. But even when the action picked up, there were still sections that dragged, and other pivotal scenes that were very brief.
The second issue I had was the writing itself. The third person POV alternated between Aria and Peregrine, but was so removed from their experience I had trouble connecting with them. The writing was just flat. It’s hard to describe the magical quality that makes a story more than just words. It’s something you feel, and I never felt that with this book. Though certain phrases, like the line that the title comes from, are poetic, there are many more instances of strange in-world language (“rancy”?!) that don’t make sense in the distant third person. This is an entirely personal opinion, and others may have found the writing beautiful, but I didn’t.
What Veronica Rossi definitely got right is the story! I loved the aether storms, the cannibalistic Croven tribe with their creepy masks and black robes, and the very real struggles of the protagonists. The primitive way the “savages” live and the way “moles” live in futuristic pods where they can escape to virtual worlds made for nice contrast and the motivations of the characters to work together despite their initial suspicion were well-plotted. I loved the idea of this book.
I can see why other readers have fallen in love with the romance between Aria and Perry, because it’s fantastically orchestrated. Rather than lusting after each other from the moment they lay eyes upon each other, the relationship develops slowly from mutual distrust, to reluctant acceptance of their need to work together, to a begrudging respect, until finally they can’t help but develop romantic feelings for one another. This is romance that makes sense, that feels organic, that complements a story rather than overwhelming it.
I enjoyed the secondary characters so much, I kept wishing this was written more in the style of Finnikin of the Rock, where each supporting character gets their own arc and development. Roar, Cinder, and Marron were very interesting and I wished they’d gotten more page time. I understand there is a short story featuring Roar and Perry’s sister (she gets no page time, so I’ve forgotten her name!) and while I like supplemental shorts, I feel like this would have been really epic had some of these story lines been pursued in the trilogy itself. What’s the point in doing a third person if not to integrate multiple stories?
This was a satisfying read, but I couldn’t help but think that I would have enjoyed it more had it been written by a more accomplished, experienced, or talented writer. The plot and setting had the potential to be as epic as Daughter of Smoke and Bone or Graceling, but the prose and structure were only average. I was so disappointed at the point the first installment of the series ended, I’m contemplating waiting until the third book in the trilogy is released before reading Through the Ever Night, even though I have an ARC, just so I am not left hanging again.
I’ll have no problems recommending this series to fans of fantasy, science fiction, and post-apocalyptic settings, because it’s a great blend of these genres, but it had too many flaws to make it onto my favorites shelf. It’s a series I’ll definitely continue, and I hope the pacing is better in the future installments.
Gaby @ Two Readers Writing: “There was no typical YA angst, their characters developed so naturally and believable.”
Tatiana @ The Readventurer: “Well written and entertaining, with characters and relationships that do not annoy and make you roll your eyes.”