Series: The Heartland Trilogy #1
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult
Published by Amazon Childrens Publishing on July 30th, 2013
Reviewed by: Chris
Fear the Corn.
Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It's the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow—and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it. As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables. But Cael's tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He's sick of the mayor's son besting Cael's crew in the scavenging game. And he's worried about losing Gwennie—his first mate and the love of his life—forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry—angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn't seem upset about any of it. When Cael and his crew discover a secret, illegal garden, he knows it’s time to make his own luck...even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.
When I claimed UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY for review I had no idea this was a young adult novel. I simply saw Chuck Wendig's name and, since I absolutely loved THE BLUE BLAZES, I quickly claimed it. When I saw that it was young adult I was a little worried. Would Wendig's style be so watered down I wouldn't enjoy it? I'm pleased to say that wasn't the case at all and UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY is a great read for both adult fans of Wendig's writing and for the younger crowd who probably has never heard of him.
With YA fiction I often find myself rolling my eyes at the idealized teenage life the authors portray in the books. When I was sixteen I cursed, did stupid things and generally acted like someone who was too old to be a child and too young to be an adult. In UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY Wendig does a fantastic job of portraying his teenage characters as, well, teenagers. They swear, talk about (and have) sex and make the kind of rash decisions that you probably would have made as a teenager.
The book tells the tale of Cael McAvoy - captain of the Big Sky Scavengers. He and his friends try to supplement their family's meager earnings by scavenging what they can find in the corn fields that are, well, everywhere. In this future the Empyreans rule from colonies in the sky and people like Cael are left to manage the corn crops that supply the Empyreans with the resources they need to continue living in luxury. Corn has long since stopped being grown primarily for food and it is used in everything. When Cael and his friends stumble upon what they see as their way out of poverty, they quickly learn that nothing is every as easy as they want it to be.
UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY is an excellent book and the only thing stopping this from being a five bat review is the lack of depth for the other characters (especially Gwennie and the other female characters). Wendig has never had a problem writing strong female characters in his adult novels and I imagine we'll get to see more of them in the next book of this series. I've seen several reviews that question Wendig's frank portrayal of teenage life, but I found it to be a breath of fresh air and I would have loved this book to pieces if I had read it when I was a teen.
- Under the Empyrean Sky