Up Up and Away: A Review of Updraft by Fran Wilde

Let me begin by saying this is my first solo post as a contributor for Speculative Chic! I was surprised and happy when the Editor-in-Chic reached out to me, as this blog has everything I really want in a site: SF/F/H, reviews, and a great group of women (and some familiar faces)!

Without further ado, here’s a review of Updraft by Fran Wilde. . .

Updraft (2015)Updraft by Fran Wilde
Written by: Fran Wilde
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 352 (Trade Paperback)
Series: Book One of Bone Universe
Publisher: Orbit

Why I Chose It: I saw this book pop up all over the net when it came out. There was a lot of great reviews and it won the Andre Norton Award. Also, it appealed to me because I have a special fondness for themes of flight or flying (Peter Pan is one of my all time favorite stories) and so picking up this was a no-brainer for me.

The premise:

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.

This review does not contain any spoilers.

Discussion: When I bought this book I didn’t realize it was young adult. I am not really convinced it is, even though it won the Andre Norton Award, which is for young adult books. It reads like any fantasy. Sure, the main character, Kirit, is a teenager, but that’s about the only box this book checks off in the young adult trope list. This is a good thing because these days “young adult” has come to be synonymous with love triangles, crumbling societies, and incompetent adults (Yes, I know these tropes don’t represent all YA books; please don’t send me hate mail).

updraft original coverKirit is a capable heroine trying to live up to the legacy of her talented, high-flying, trader mother. It was refreshing to not have Kirit’s story dive straight into romance but focus instead on making her place in the world and later trying to bring down the establishment. That being said, I found it very hard to connect with Kirit, or any other character. The book was written well, the characters diverse enough, but it just didn’t click for me. I found it hard to care about any of them or their problems. Something about the story seemed smudged and out of focus, or like I was watching from very far away.

Kirit, besides wanting to become a trader like her mother, didn’t really have anything else about her personality. She has one friend, Nat, and even then, I didn’t feel they had any chemistry at all, romantic or otherwise. I was very interested in her mother, who seemed to have a mysterious backstory along with Kirit’s father but this wasn’t a big focus in the plot. We do eventually find out what happened in the past as Kirit unlocks the truth of the Spire; I probably would have liked the book to be about her mother instead. Maybe there’s a prequel opportunity there?

The one thing that kept me going was the worldbuilding. I can say that Wilde has created one unique and clever world. This city in the clouds is made of bone towers (whether that’s literal or not, I’m not sure), where people fly with fabricated wings, and monsters are invisible and actually want to just eat you. There’s a bit of mystery involved surrounding the Spire and Singers, the order of people who basically lead everyone and keep everyone safe from the skymouths. The story is wrapped up by the end but you can tell this is just the first in a series.

In Conclusion: If anything I said above interested you, I’d say give this book a chance. You might connect where I didn’t. Personally, when I finish a book, I like to feel like I was punched in the gut because there was just so much emotional investment. This book didn’t provide that. I’d like to see what Wilde does next, but I probably won’t be back for Cloudbound, the sequel.


  • Shara White November 15, 2016 at 7:02 am

    I swear, the trade paperback cover of this book is just GORGEOUS! But what catches my eye between the two is in the original art, the protagonist looks white, but definitely not in the new one. Was this another case of white-washing?

    • Lisa P November 15, 2016 at 9:27 am

      Yes, I think the original cover was whitewashed (at least, it did not overtly show the characters as being PoC) and I think they fixed that in the trade paperback. I really love the cover too. The sequel, Cloudbound, features a PoC character as well, so it seems they are going in the right direction.

  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier November 18, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    It’s kind of comforting that I wasn’t the only one who had a hard time connecting with this one, given how many people seem to love it. I just couldn’t get through it. Might try again in the future though.


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