The bestselling author of the Black Key Series is back with a sapphic utopian book that dives into dystopia, identity, magic, and more. I read the description of this book that Ewing put out a couple months ago and knew I had to read this book ASAP. Then, the cover came out and it was absolutely gorgeous. I received an eARC of this book from Edelweiss and even though it doesn’t come out until February of 2019, I couldn’t help but read it NOW. I’m almost mad at myself though because I’m itching for the sequel (it’s a duology) and I’m not going to get it until 2020. In the meantime, I’ll dedicate my life to promoting this book to future readers.
Sera Lighthaven lives in the city in the sky, a sort of sapphic utopia, where she is raised by her three mothers (who conceive via parthogensis), wears cloudspun dresses, and pretty much causes trouble in whatever ways she can. This consists of asking A LOT of questions, ones her green mother and even the High Priestess can’t answer about the city’s history and even its future. Many of her friends dream of marriage and forming their own triads,but Sera is in no particular hurry. When the High Priestess announces that it is time to leave the planet they are currently attached to and move to another, Sera is overjoyed. She has always longed to see a new planet. But Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the bond. Her blood must spill. But something goes wrong, and Sera is falling falling falling…
Down on the planet, in a place called Kaolin, we meet Agnes and Leo, two children of an evil PT Barnum-esque man. Agnes wants to be a scientist, but the restrictive views on women in Kaolin don’t bode well for her future, restricting not only what she can study but who she can love. Leo always thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps but he’s becoming less and less sure of his path forward.
This novel is told in several sections and through four different points of view: Sera, her best friend Leela, Agnes, and Leo. We move back and from the city and the sky to Kaolin to watch the story unfold in two storylines, and while it takes a bit to come together, it’s pretty clear it’s going to be epic when we finally figure out all the secrets. Having four different POVS allows the reader to not only understand Kaolin down below as an outsider would view it but also as an insider who knows it so well. I also enjoyed having Leela’s perspective back in the city in the sky to understand the greater secrets that were unraveling and see how she and Sera’s mothers grappled with Sera’s sacrifice.
Th world building in this is spectacular, especially since it’s really two different worlds being established. There’s the more utopian, ethereal city in the sky and the Victorian-esque Old Port City of Kaolin, both of which feel alive on the page and I, as a reader,felt like I could identify them and their customs and their overall tilt towards life well enough. Ewing did sure-footed work with vocabulary and the understandings that Sera would and wouldn’t have when she came to a new place and though I thought some of the ways she navigated the language barrier felt more contrived and silly than others, I enjoyed it overall.
I just wanted to keep unlocking the secrets of this book and follow Sera on her journey and get to ruminate in these characters and I’m so looking forward to the second book, the final book in the duology, which likely won’t come out until sometime in 2020. I don’t LOVE series and I don’t particularly enjoy fantasies but I’m all-in on this one. I took a utopian class in college and loved exploring the different ways utopians manifest in literature and how a utopia can easily be someone else’s dystopia, so I think the second book of this series also has a lot of potential. I’m excited to see where it goes and hope that everyone adds it to the TBR list ASAP!