All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (book review)

December 31, 2016 | By | Reply More

This is that rare find these days, a stand-alone SF/fantasy novel. I’ve put it as both but to be honest this is a genre-defying book that just happens to contain some magic and some science alongside all the other parts of the story.

This is the story of Patricia, who learns that she can understand the speech of birds one afternoon while she is hiding from her sister and Laurence who invents a two second time machine while still in junior school. They meet in school and then, through various reasons, they lose contact with each other, only to regain contact years into the future whilst Earth is slowly falling apart around them. They are both attempting to fix the ailing planet, Patricia through her small group of magical friends and Laurence through more scientific methods.

This book is split into three different parts, the first being written in a childish manner as the main protagonists are both small children. The second part then reads more like a YA book complete with teen-age angst as the characters are now that bit older. The third part of the book is then told by the adult protagonists and is much more adult in manner and content. I did find this a little annoying simply because we missed out large chunks of their lives which I would have loved to read about, like the magic school that Patricia goes to. I would also love to read more about a lot of the background characters, they seemed fascinating and I need to know more about them.

I did find that this book was hard to pin down in terms of genre which keeps the reader on their toes. I’m not entirely sure whether I liked the combination of so many different storytelling styles, different genres, etc. I never quite felt settled in this book as though I felt that I knew where the story was going.

Along with the two main protagonists, we get a few other viewpoints, my favourite of which was the assassin, who made this book feel a little more like a Pratchett story, I’m not sure how to be honest. Maybe it was the comedic elements he lent to the story, even though he himself was a very straight up and down kind of character, oh and he was part of a guild as well. Having said that, I also found that parts of the book felt a little bit like Dianna Wynne Jones style as well. Both these authors are in my favourites list, but I would possibly have preferred hearing a more definite voice from Anders rather than similar styles to other authors.

I did enjoy the way magic worked in this world, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before and I think I’d like to see some further stories from this author using it as well. It seems to work through touch, whispers and suggestion rather than anything flashy or showy, there don’t seem to be learnt spells or anything of that nature. Also, if you have done a piece of good magic then you need to do something not so good such as assassinate someone in order to balance everything out. Normally magic-users in books are either good or bad, these people seem to want to remain in that grey area in between.

It was interesting to read about an apocalypse as it is happening rather than reading about a post-apocalyptic world. It never really occurred to me that people would sit around and discuss how bad things need to get before it’s a genuine apocalypse and they should start to do more dramatic things to stop it.

Overall, this was an good book but I feel it could have been better if the author had simply tried to stick to one or two genres rather than shoe-horning in as many as they did. I will read more by this authors but she’s not on my auto-buy list as yet.

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Sarah Bruch

December 2016

(pub: TOR/Forge, 2014. 313 page hardback. Price: $25.99 (US), $29.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-7994-8. Ebook: Price: £ 0.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-76537-994-8)

check out website: www.tor-forge.com

Category: Books, Fantasy, Scifi

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