Jan 22, 2014

The Pearl Wars (Skyship Academy #1), by Nick James

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.


Intended Age-Group: 12+
Issues of Violence: gunfire, explosions
Intimacy Level: minor kisses
Language: What the h**l, bad-a**, ba***rd, d*mn, some uses of "God" as exclamations.
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars. Completely delightful and original!

 First, just take a moment to soak in that cover. Isn't it amazing? Guilty confession: I totally bought it for the cover.

Book blurb:

A devastated Earth's last hope is found in Pearls: small, mysterious orbs that fall from space and are capable of supplying enough energy to power entire cities. Battling to control the Pearls are the Skyship dwellers—political dissidents who live in massive ships in the Earth's stratosphere—and the corrupt Surface government.
Jesse Fisher, a Skyship slacker, and Cassius Stevenson, a young Surface operative, cross paths when they both venture into forbidden territory in pursuit of Pearls. Their chance encounter triggers an unexpected reaction, endowing each boy with remarkable—and dangerous—abilities that their respective governments would stop at nothing to possess.
Enemies thrust together with a common goal, Jesse and Cassius make their way to the ruins of Seattle to uncover the truth about their new powers, the past they didn't know they shared, and a shocking secret about the Pearls.

Initial Reaction: *****
I loved it. I love discovering new worlds and the idea of gigantic gorgeous energy-pulsing marbles falling from the sky. This book had me from the start -- the first line actually made it onto my "favorite first lines list" (yes, I'm a bit nerdy and actually have one of these.)

Characters: *****
Both main characters -- Jesse and Cassius -- provided unique perspectives on the same war. Jesse's point-of-view (POV) was told in first person and Cassius's was in third person. Some other reviewers said this was distracting and usually it is for me, but for some reason it didn't bother me this time around. Actually, it made it a lot easier to tell them apart, but even without that difference in voice I think I could have kept them straight. The boys were unique, their voices were unique, and I never groaned when we switched POVs. That's a rare thing for me because I tend to gravitate toward single POV books.

I especially appreciated their different takes on serious issues like death, murder, greed, and need. While one was technically "the bad guy," he always felt human and relatable. And even the "good guy" had his flaws and weaknesses that increased his level of relatability. Very well done. Good job, Mr. James.

Plot:  *****
This entire plot was unique and well delivered. The world Mr. James created with pearls, skyships, and government control was intricate yet understandable. I appreciated the depth he put into each character, keeping them from turning cardboard. The story was unpredictable but clear enough to follow and I found myself surprised at the end. Who doesn't love surprises?

On occasion, the military talk got a bit too thick for me to follow, but I found if I pushed through most of it I could still keep the main plot and story straight. I assume more of the details will come into play in book two for clarification. If they don't, I'm fine with just focusing on the plot regarding Jesse and Cassius.  But if you need a guide to remind you what everything stands for, Nick James put together a great database on his website. I appreciated the deeper development of this world. While staying dystopian, it juggled two different government systems that were in conflict with one another and a people group outside of either government controls. Unique and well-developed (despite the occasional confusion.)

Spiritual focus:  *****

None really, though there's mention of a religious sect that worships the Pearls that fall from the sky. I'm mostly thankful this is clean and engaging fiction for younger readers.

Overall Recommendation: *****
If you're a fan of dystopian worlds, especially ones with different military-type interaction, then the Skyship Academy series is for you. I plan to start book two, Crimson Rising, tonight.

I think this book will appeal to both male and female readers of the intended age group (and older.) It is written with clean content, but an intense plot that will keep the readers turning the pages.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, released September 2014 from Enclave Publishing. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.


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