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“Horizon” by Fran Wilde

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Horizon concludes Fran Wilde’s Bone Universe trilogy. After sparking a revolution and learning a momentous secret about the city they’ve lived in their whole lives, Kirit and Nat must lead their people to a new home.

The new book dramatically expands the scope of the setting. Updraft and Cloudbound didn’t feel claustrophobic, despite the action being limited to the interlinked towers of one city, but whole new vistas open up for the characters here. Almost as remarkable for Kirit is the revelation that there are other people in her world, with their own customs and traditions—and their own answers to the problems of survival.

My one gripe is that we never learn why the city’s ancestors climbed the towers to begin with. The ground has its dangers, but so did the towers, and the ground certainly isn’t uninhabitable. And the series has always portrayed The Rise as something that happened out of necessity rather than choice.

Updraft was Fran Wilde’s first novel, and she created a breathtakingly original setting. I’m eager to see what kind of worlds she’ll explore in her future work.

“Cloudbound” by Fran Wilde

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I was amazed by Fran Wilde’s novel Updraft when I read it a few months ago. The sequel, Cloudbound, explores the aftermath of what happened in that book and how Kirit’s society moved forward. Because so much of what happens in Cloudbound hinges on the events of the first book, this review will necessarily contain spoilers.

Like Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood, Cloudbound depicts a society that has just undergone a revolutionary change. While the good guys have triumphed over great odds, they aren’t being allowed to rest on their laurels. Nat is now one of the city’s leaders, and he has to decide which faction to align himself with and how to deal with the Singers who survived. He and the other main characters are faced with weighty questions: Which of the old laws should be done away with and which kept? Should the members of the different Singer factions be treated differently? Should the practice of Conclave continue—and if not, how should the city be appeased when it roars? For the most part, Wilde presents these dilemmas in an interesting, thought-provoking way, though there are some passages where Nat’s thoughts and feelings are summarized in narration immediately after being shown.

I also enjoyed how Cloudbound expanded the setting introduced in the first book. An unsettling discovery forces Nat and his friends to climb down into the clouds. They encounter ancient ruins, terrible monsters, and a nefarious plot along the way. At the end of Updraft, I had a theory about the nature of the city, and I was pleased to be proven right. I also absolutely loved the concept of reverse altitude sickness.

Cloudbound ends with more of a cliffhanger than Updraft did. The third and final book in the trilogy, Horizon, is already out, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

“Updraft” by Fran Wilde

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Fran Wilde’s debut novel, Updraft, has rightly earned a great deal of acclaim. Set in a city of bone towers, the story follows a young woman named Kirit. On the eve of her coming-of-age, Kirit displays a remarkable ability that makes her a pawn in an ongoing power struggle.

The worldbuilding in this novel is incredible. The setting is unique on a large scale, but the author also takes care to extrapolate out the small details of how people in such a world would live: what they’d eat, what materials they’d use for crafting, etc. Wilde does a deft job of supplying this information in the course of the story, without resorting to infodumps.

In addition to the physical setting, Updraft also presents the reader with a complex social structure. We’re also shown how this structure derives from the society’s history, which is another nice bit of verisimilitude. As the narrative progresses, we learn about factions and secrets within the society. I found the story compelling and was engaged by the mysteries Kirit discovered. The climax of the story was exciting, and I cared about what happened to Kirit, her mentor Wik, and her friend Nat.

Updraft is the first in a trilogy, and as soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to start in on the next book. I also have a theory about the nature of the setting, and I’m looking forward to seeing if I’m right.