Book Review: Updraft by Fran Wilde

UpdraftOnce again, here’s an author that came to my attention because she was a guest speaker at my writing group. I wanted to “do my homework,” so to speak, before the meeting so I checked this one out from the library.

So, Updraft – it’s a fantasy about a society that lives in living bone towers above the clouds. Their method of transportation is to fly from tower to tower on wings made from silk and bone. The book cover is highly inaccurate, so don’t pay it no mind. The wings are small enough that they attach to the body and can be furled, so the people can walk around with them. The protagonist is Kirit and she breaks some serious rules, the consequences of which drive the remainder of the book’s plot.

Something I really liked about this book were the ‘monsters’ – which are called Skymouths. They fly around, silent, invisible, except when they open their mouths and they have wicked teeth and they eat people whole – so awesomely terrifying.

Also, I could tell the author had done her research when it came to the wings: how they worked, materials, etc. It all made sense and is based on real physics.

Unfortunately, there were some things a didn’t like:

  • Kirit. She’s kind of a Mary Sue character. She’s too good at everything – I can’t tell you what that ‘everything’ is without spoiling the plot, so I’ll just leave it at this: her abilities were not realistic.
  • The bone towers. They have tiers, they’re circular, but how big around are they? Again, the cover is no help because the book never says they’re spine-like. Also, I never could understand how the living quarters were arranged within the towers.  How many people live on each tier? Is each tier divided into smaller compartments like the spokes of a wheel? I gathered that one family have an entire tier all to themselves, but that doesn’t make any sense. From top to bottom the tower was only, like, twelve tiers of habitable space, does that mean there are only twelve families in the entire tower? No. Doesn’t work, sorry. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Population. Here we have a society that is very dangerous to live in. If your wings fail in flight, you fall to your death. When you’re learning to fly, you could easily mess up and fall to your death. The government has very harsh punishment for (in my humble opinion) minor infractions and comes to take people away and toss them to their deaths. There are monsters that fly around eating people on a regular basis. A lot of people die, often, which, if you want to maintain your population (nevermind growing it) you have to have a lot of babies. Like, all the babies. And yet, our main character: only child. Her best friend: only child. Just mentioning that there are children (but not actually see them) or showing one pregnant lady doesn’t convince me that the author’s got a handle on population issues or that she even thought about it. Kirit’s home tower is considered ‘overpopulated’….Twelve families per tower? Everyone has one kid? People are dying left and right? Over-populated my foot.

Ms. Wilde did admit at the meeting that, coming from a short story background, one of her weaknesses was that sometimes her prose were too lean. I think that some of my criticisms could stem from that. Possibly. Or I’m just a natality statistics nerd so I’m just not the person an author wants reading their book if they haven’t considered population issues in their world.

Final verdict: B-. I did like it – it had an interesting premise, but there were just a few things that drove me nuts.

Thanks for reading!


~ Hardback book checked out from the local library.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.


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