I will start by saying that the cover is absolutely beautiful, however I’m glad that I borrowed this novel from my library rather than buying it myself. Take Back The Skies is centred around Catherine, who runs away from home and becomes Cat, when she joins the ‘Stormdancer’ airship. Cat disguises herself as a boy to remain on the ship and throughout her adventure she learns some shocking things about her family.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of the characters and the plot, I thought I should say that I really loved the first 80 pages or so. I was completely engrossed in the story and the world building. I liked all of the character’s personalities to begins with and the writing style was engaging and new. Unfortunately, my enjoyment wasn’t sustained throughout the whole novel, and after the crew of the ‘Stormdancer’ discovered Cat’s identity I felt that the story went, perhaps not downhill, but sideways. This is an opinion that I read countless times in the reviews listed on GoodReads, and I have to say, I agree.
Let’s start with Cat: I liked her. She was a gutsy feminist who wasn’t going to put up with her father’s misogyny, or any one else’s for that matter. Until the end where she forgot how much she fought to be treated the same as Fox had when she kept her ‘gender bend’ identity. The ending disappointed me incredibly. Although Saxon has clarified that all Cat wanted to do was help her country, I still felt it wasn’t what she deserved. She was able to convince people that she had the right ideas on how to save the world, even though she was only 14 – the weight of the world on a 14 year old’s shoulders doesn’t sound too good to me, but luckily she was able to convince all of the characters that her knowledge of government buildings would suffice. Although I liked her, I also found her incredibly frustrating.
Fox is the love interest and I found him intriguing to begin with, but when the relationship element of the novel started, I became disinterested. Because suddenly he was just this ‘prince’ who could save Cat, even though she’d tried so hard to make him realise that she was ‘who she was’ and no one could change that. Suddenly Saxon is perpetuating the idea of the girl being the Brains and the guy being the Brawn. The introduction of the love triangle was incredibly unnecessary. I thought that for once I’d get through a YA novel without there being two love interests, but no. Half way through and another contender to the title of ‘Cat’s prince’ is thrown at us. I didn’t connect to this second boy one bit, and as soon as he was introduced 18 year old Fox’s behaviour regressed into that of a 6 year old. They were petty and jealous, fighting over Cat like she was a possession. I particularly didn’t like the fact that Boy Number Two decided it would be okay to pursue Cat’s affections even though she had told him a firm ‘no’ multiple times. No means no.
The world building was paced well, even though it was only concentrated to one/two of the islands that made up the world. I would have liked to learn more about the other countries, and their histories, but for a first instalment I thought it was quite successful. Then the reveals about the governing body emerge and I’m starting to question whether the world building was successful or not, because I’m confused about who has the most power and who are the really important government officials.
I enjoyed the plot twists that kept the book going in between incredibly slow sections, where the only thing that happens is relationship development between the characters on the air ship. Whilst we’re on the topic of the airship, I’d like to say that I was rather surprised by the size of the crew. I was expecting something more along the lines of the pirate ship in Stardust or Treasure Planet the Disney movie.
WARNING: SPOILERS START HERE.
Because I disliked the ending so completely I though I would take a moment to reflect on it. So, Fox dies. I’ll admit that at one of the slow paced sections I flicked to the ending because all I could think was ‘what could possibly happen next?’ After reading the epilogue I came to my own conclusions that Fox had to die for the sake of plot. If he didn’t die it would’ve gone nowhere. Yeah, okay, so Cat lost her parents – she didn’t care about her father, but that’s another matter entirely – and there were lots of government conspiracies revealed about robotic/mechanic/cyborg children-hybrids, but these things were resolved within fifty pages of their reveal. So what was going to happen? Well, we’ve had the action and adventure side of the story, which leaves the romance. *sigh*
The relationship Cat had with her father is the last thing I wanted to mention in this review before it becomes a essay. In the beginning I thought he was a relatively unassuming character, and then it turns out that he physically abused Cat. For more than two thirds of the book Cat’s sole purpose for running away from home was because she didn’t want to be married off to a random stranger that she disgusted – oh the irony – and then she points out scars on her torso with elusive comments along the lines of, “she’d been punished for it. Hard.” It seemed clumsy, like the author had decided that she needed some character intricacies to drive the plot forward, therefore she thought she’d slip this bit of information in. But it’s not a little bit of informations, it’s HUGE, and should have been reinforced much sooner.
SPOILERS END HERE.
Overall, I would give Take Back The Skies 2.5 stars, because the beginning was so gripping, but the ending left something to be desired.