Review: Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Take Back the Skies by Lucy SaxonTake Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon
Series: Take Back the Skies #1
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on June 3, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

Catherine Hunter is the daughter of a senior government official on the island of Anglya. She’s one of the privileged – she has luxurious clothes, plenty to eat, and is protected from the Collections which have ravaged families throughout the land. But Catherine longs to escape the confines of her life, before her dad can marry her off to a government brat and trap her forever.

So Catherine becomes Cat, pretends to be a kid escaping the Collections, and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. As they leave Anglya behind and brave the storms that fill the skies around the islands of Tellus, Cat’s world becomes more turbulent than she could ever have imagined, and dangerous secrets unravel her old life once and for all . . .

After Blythe (Finding Bliss in Books) pitched Take Back the Skies to me as sort of She’s the Man meets Firefly, obviously I HAD to have it. What’s funny is Blythe thought I wouldn’t like the romance but would enjoy everything else, but my issues were more with the writing than the romance. I did find Take Back the Skies engaging and a pleasantly quick read, but I also think it would have benefited from different marketing and some serious tightening of the writing. Saxon’s debut has a lot of promise, but I think it will work better for middle grade audiences than YA as it has been marketed.

One of my pet peeves is when people say a bad and simple YA novel should be marketed towards middle graders, just because of the simplicity. I want to stress that that’s not the case here. I think if I’d read this at age 9, I would have been entranced by the gender bending and the adventure. Though the characters are teens, the heroine, Cat, is 14 for much of the book and, due to her sheltered upbringing, she’s not a highly mature 14. She tends to the naive, which isn’t to say she’s not smart but she’s definitely still learning. Everyone comes off as a bit younger than their years, actually, enough so that I wonder if it was initially a middle grade.

For an example of something silly that bothers me as an adult but wouldn’t have been an issue with me as a younger reader, when Catherine stows away aboard the Stormdancer dressed as a boy, she says her name is Cat. This is not a common boy’s name and not ideal for a gender bending scenario. A more mature heroine would have had some sort of plan in place. I also regularly figured out plot points ahead of the characters, something I experience much more frequently in middle grade novels, which makes sense because of the educational disparity in the intended readership.

The writing has hopefully been edited a bit more by the final version (as I read an ARC), but it did tend to be a bit repetitive and inform the reader of things that the reader already knew. The most blatant example of the repetition I noticed was when on page 59, there’s this:

Cat assumed it was the Secondary storm barrier, and could see why Harry didn’t want them on deck when they reached it. It looked terrifying.

Two pages later:

No wonder most ships didn’t bother attempting to fly through the Secondary; it was terrifying!

So what’s the final verdict on the Secondary then? Is it terrifying? I’m still not sure.

The world of Take Back the Skies is a fantasy (or possibly futuristic?) world based upon our own. Cat lives in Anglya, which is obviously England. Another country is Merica; can you guess what that represents? Anyway, Anglya’s been in a war for years and the government collects all but the firstborn children as they turn thirteen for the war effort. Kids are getting pretty scarce on the ground at this point. The science fiction and fantasy aspects are the strongest, I think. The storms in the skies and the truth of what’s happening with the kids were both really interesting, and I would have liked to see those built out a bit more.

The romance I actually thought was rather adorable, albeit not a strong ship for me. Cat and Fox do trade some cute banter and have rather cute crushes on one another that they try to hide by being mean. Again, it’s a very youthful, middle grade dynamic. They take everything very seriously and get quite attached, but that optimism rather fit them. Their love didn’t feel so much declared by the author as fact to me, but like they thought they were in love, which in time could turn out to be true or not. However, their first little confession of feelings over a dead body was a wee bit gross.

Then there’s the ending, which I am basically gawping at. I’m in two minds here, because the ending is daring and surprising, which is something I do like. Then there’s the epilogue, which, depending on what happens in the next book, I could be okay with or could really dislike. View Spoiler »

All that said, I didn’t dislike Take Back the Skies. It was a quick, fun read, and in a lot of ways I think it was SO close to being something amazing but didn’t quite get there. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Saxon’s career, as she clearly enjoys some of the same tropes as I do and her writing is sure to improve with time.

Favorite Quote:

“Don’t assume things about me just because of my name, and my birth status; us spoiled little princesses are allowed to have terrible childhoods too. You have no right to judge me by how you think I grew up, because I assure you, it definitely wasn’t as glamorous as you’re imagining.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif she's the man coolness fail
So close to being completely cool, but not quite.

4 responses to “Review: Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon”

  1. Yeah, I do think this would be better as a MG. The writing did come across that way, and also the age of the MC. Which I know doesn’t amount to much, but still. But yay you liked the romance! I’ve been off with my recommendations lately. My problem with the romance was that I just really didn’t like Fox, though. But the sequel will focus on different characters, so that sucks.
    Blythe Harris recently posted…Discussion Review: Vivian Divine Is DeadMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      What didn’t you like about Fox? I’m really curious!

      • He just felt like the kind of fifth grade love interest that showed how much he liked Cat by being a total dick to her. Which goes to your point about the characters all acting younger than they are. He just really bothered me. Plus, it wasn’t established until like 300 pages in that the novel took place in the early 1900s, so his sexism bothered me. And by the time I had found out it took place in 1910 or something, I had already disliked Fox and there was no turning back. Oops.
        Blythe Harris recently posted…Discussion Review: Vivian Divine Is DeadMy Profile

        • Christina Franke says:

          Whoa, I missed the 1900s thing. I am confused by this. Anyway, I thought she was more sexist than he was. She was constantly putting herself up as the exception to women being good for only cooking and cleaning. They all accept her and she keeps raising that subject, and I’m like GIRL.

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