Books

Book Review – All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

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Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers, they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths…

When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world – and live up to his reputation – in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repair the earth’s ever growing ailments.

As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia’s shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone.

REVIEW

It’s been a little while since my last blog post, but I’m hoping to be back more in 2017! I’ve missed book blogging, and this has been a fantastic book to get me be back on my blogging feet.

The premise for All the Birds in the Sky is intriguing in itself, a story that couldn’t be more of the classic sci-fi/fantasy mix. A witch AND a scientist, you say? Count me in! As someone who lived on YA witchy/fairy books in my teens, this book was a nice bridge into that fantasy world for me, but in a more modern setting.

The story begins with Patricia and Laurence as children, and I found them to be quite fascinating characters. Both were unique and very gifted in their own individual ways, with Laurence’s scientific and logical mind contrasted against Patricia’s relationship with nature, her witch powers, and her connection to animals. I particularly enjoyed Ander’s interpretation of how animals talk as we soon learn that Patricia is (sometimes) able to communicate with them. As a child, she finds a sparrow with a damaged wing who tells her that its name is ‘Dirrpidirrpiwheepalong, or Dirrp for short’. I thought this was just fantastic, and it is with this imaginative depiction of animal-kind that I became enthralled with the book.

Laurence, too, has his interesting talents, creating a two-second time machine as just a little boy, allowing him to jump forwards in time just a fraction. Throughout the book his inventions become more nuanced and both characters get to explore themselves and their talents, often in opposition of the world around them. Like many books that depict youth and adolescence, these characters are unsurprisingly outcasts, fighting to be themselves in a world that just doesn’t want to accept them. Although a clichéd narrative device, Anders really makes us feel for these characters in their difficulties growing up.

Anders’ imagination leaps off of the page and I truly loved all of her interpretations of what could be our near futures. I did, however, have some issues in consistency. There were many times in the book where I was taken out of the story thanks to tiny descriptive discrepancies (brunette hair turning to black, hazel eyes to sea-green, a car specifically said to contain four people at the top of the page, ending up with five by the end with no line about another one getting in etc…). I’ll admit I’m totally nit-picking, but they did bug me to read. I understand there needs to be descriptive diversity, but keep it consistent please!

I think maybe these issues could’ve been resolved by the book being split into more than one. Once I’d finished reading, I had a strong feeling that the book should’ve been a series. All the Birds in the Sky was actually split into four sections which were actually named ‘Book One’, ‘Book Two’ etc. I felt the first two books were my favourite. They were well-paced, just the right length, and contained really important and interesting character development. But the other two books felt so rushed to me. The new characters that were introduced felt like caricatures with the story never quite delving deep enough to make them three-dimensional characters. The main action and climax of the book, also felt incredibly hurried. I just wanted it to slow down a bit, tie up some loose threads and expand on what turned out to be some throw-away ideas.

All in all, I did enjoy this book. I loved the writing style, not too complex but still completely captivating. Its protagonists, Patricia and Laurence, were very well-written and I enjoyed their complexities. I just wish it had been a series for Anders to fully explore the world she created without having to quickly explain her fantasy and sci-fi elements. I would recommend people reading this book, who like me, are desperately in need of more hopeful books and sci-fis that aren’t afraid to forget nature. This may have had dystopian elements, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the book refreshing in its conclusion (if a little bit rushed, and maybe just a little bit fluffy. But come on, I think we’re all in need of just a little fluff).

★★★½

 

 

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