Friday, July 18, 2008

Futuristic Flying Villages Anyone?

I have a thing for stories that happen in the sky. Funny, because I'm a paranoid, nail-biting, "was that the sound of an engine shutting down?" type of flier. Yet flight features prominently in some of my favourite books: Airman, Airborn, Skybreaker, Harry Potter, Larklight. I expected to enjoy Monk and Nigel Ashland's new book, Kaimira: The Sky Village, since a flying village, suspended by a web of connected hot-air balloons, features prominently in the story. I wasn't sure how I would like the strong Sci-fi aspect of the book, but I was surprised how easily I "got into" the Kaimira world.

You'll find a rich and complicated plot in The Sky Village - really two stories in one, in fact. The story takes place in the future, during a time in which humans, beasts and powerful mechanical monsters are in conflict. First there is Mei, a young girl whose mother has been kidnapped by fearsome metallic creatures known as meks. After the attack on her village, Mei is brought by her father to the Sky Village, to live with her mother's people in relative safety above the dangerous earth. As a land walker, Mei finds it difficult to prove herself to her bold celestial relatives. So much about the Sky Village is strange and even frightening to her, and Mei is determined to find her mother and rescue her from the meks. At the same time, far away in the ruined city of Las Vegas, a young man named Rom is trying to eek out a meager existence for himself and his sister Riley. When Riley is taken by demonic creatures deep into the caves under the city, Rom must follow. He becomes involved in gladiator-style fighting called "demonsmithing" in which fighters conjure mechanical-beast demons to battle each other for the entertainment of gamblers. The fates of these two characters are in fact intertwined, since they communicate through a magical text known as the Tree Book. As well, both Mei and Rom carry the kaimira gene, which means that elements of beast and mek are a part of their genetic identity. They struggle to understand what this might mean for their futures, and to control the potentially violent and unpredictable aspects of themselves.

If you love to read novels with complex, unusual and well-realized futuristic societies, you will likely enjoy The Sky Village. It's clear that Monk and Nigel Ashland put real heart into developing a believable and intricate world. The episodes in the Sky Village itself were my favourite parts of the story. I could really imagine this huge floating city drifting above the Chinese landscape. I'm sure that there will be many fans Rom's plotline, as the demonsmithing scenes are dark and thrilling. This is a story for guys and girls, for anyone who loves tales of adventure and other worlds. I interviewed Chris Rettstatt (aka Monk Ashland) on his recent blog tour. Head over here to find out all kinds of stuff about Chris' inspiration and favourite books. There is a cool interactive website at where you can really dig deep into the world of the story. Oh, and don't worry. This is the first in a five-book series, bound to please a whole lot of Sci-fi / Fantasy lovers and lots of other folk besides.

Kaimira: The Sky Village is published by Candlewick.

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