Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi (author website)
Re-published by ATOM (AUS) 8th Jan. 2013
Originally Published January 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
With a world both beautiful and brutal, skies of liquid blue fire over endless wilderness, fearless savage warriors and beautiful lost girls, Under the Never Sky reads something like a fairytale. With all the sex, blood, magic and violence one can find in those Grimm tales, perhaps it’s not so poor a comparison, for Rossi weaves as certain strange, familiar magic into her story, making for a spellbinding debut.
Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.
As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.
They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers abarbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.
The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure
Aria has lived her whole life safe within her enclosed society, safe from deadly aether storms, toxic air and savage cannibals under a protective dome. But When her search for answers about her missing mother goes terribly wrong, Aria finds her friends dead, and herself as good as: exiled into the world outside.
But perhaps the outside is not quite as it seems.
Aria is rescued by a 'savage' boy named Perry. A boy who is also searching for someone dear. Together, they set out in search of what they've lost, and find something in each other entirely unexpected...
Under the Never Sky is a hard book to label, and perhaps that’s a good thing. To call it ‘dystopian’ doesn’t quite fit — like squeezing into too-small pants and seeing everything overflow. Rossi’s world is vast and deep and lovely, and the book carries a sense of wide-eyed wonder at the world more than it does a sense of suffocating oppression.
"She stepped out of the elevator to a new sky, shot through with swirls of blue light. The eddies ran calm above her, but turned brighter and faster on the horizon. It was Van Gogh’s Starry Night, right before her eyes."
Almost a character itself, Rossi’s world, and its eponymous ‘never sky’ are captivating. Each facet of the world, from the swirling blue Aether sky, to the desert, to the lush forest flooded with blue light is spectacular, and it's shown through new eyes, each scene vivid and fresh and filled with a child's wonder as Aria truly sees for the first time.
"In the Realms, falling off a horse hurt. Twisting an ankle did too. But pain was just an effect, sprinkled in to boost the thrill. They couldn’t actually get hurt in the Realms. This felt different. Like there was no limit to the pain. Like it could go on forever."
In Rossi's take on a post-apocalyptic world, the people in Under the Never Sky are split into two separate societies: ‘Dwellers,’ safe from the world’s fiery sky in futuristic domes, and ‘Outsiders’– those who survive the climate’s fury in more primitive tribes. Aria has lived her whole life ‘inside’, where her days are spent with her friends in Virtual realities as limitless as imagination. Aria’s entire civilisation runs digitally, with classrooms, entertainment and work existing in the ‘Realms,’ a reality which pronounces itself “better than real.” When Aria finds herself expelled from this world, from her home, to an outside she has never seen before, she truly does begin to see. Each flower, storm, stone and tree are new, exciting, and her curiosity and surprise in the most basic elements of creation — of the real — carry a sense of magic – not to mention the talents of outsiders she encounters which really do border on magic themselves.
"Perry could see a sliver of the Aether swirling in the sky. On calmer days, it was like being on the underside of waves, seeing the Aether roll and pitch above. Other times it flowed like rapids, furious and blazing blue. Fire and water, come together in the sky."
The novel’s other star – and perhaps its brightest – is Peregrine. Perry is not a mere love interest, a boy created simply to admire. He is rich, layered, conflicted and rash. He’s passionate, kind and unpolished. For all his faults – and both Aria and he have their fair share – he’s near impossible to dislike, and he carries an authenticity to him; he feels like a real teenage boy. Filled with fire and drive and conflicting confidences and insecurities; he does not always know the right thing to say, nor does he possess a flare for grand romantic gestures – his best friend, Roar, is the polished, urbane one – yet he is more beautiful and perfect for his imperfections.
"Some force had pulled their hands together. Aria looked at their fingers as they laced together, bringing her the sensation of his touch. Of warmth and calluses. Soft and hard together. She absorbed the terror and beauty of him and his world. Of every moment over the past days. All of it, filling her up like the first breath she’d ever taken. And never had she loved life more."
For Aria and Perry there is, of course, a love story, and it’s a wonderful, sweeping one, reminiscent of that much beloved John Green quote: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”. The connection shared between Dweller and Savage develops slowly, slyly, underneath the noses of both, followed by a tide of emotion and a sudden connection, like a jigsaw finally falling into place. The tentative bond, with all its words unspoken and feelings unshared is tender and touching and devastatingly romantic. It feels like first love, the powerful rush of feeling so overwhelming it’s blinding. But both keep their heads, and there is much left unsaid by the novel’s close. A close which left me desperate for more.
"She knew how to put one foot in front of the other even when every step hurt. And she knew there was pain in the journey, but there was also great beauty. She’d seen it standing on rooftops and in green eyes and in the smallest, ugliest rock. She would find the answer."
Under the Never Sky is a tale of a rare quality: it is not writing, nor imagination, nor characters or world building alone which make it what it is, but a complex alchemical formula artfully combined to create something splendid and beautiful and unique, even in its genre similarities. It is no difficult task to discover why Rossi’s debut is lauded as one of 2012’s finest. Fantasy quest meets breathtaking dystopia in a novel which feels like a dream I still don’t want to wake up from.
Books in This Series:
- Under the Never Sky (2012)
- Through the Ever Night (January 2013)
- Into the Still Blue (2014)
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AU: Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Bookworld | Dymocks | QBD