Under the Never Sky is one of those books that broke the don’t judge a book by its cover “rule.” The title jumped out at me. Under the Never Sky. It is a mixture of the familiar and strange. Naturally, I know what “sky” means, but “never sky”? I was intrigued and was certainly rewarded when Under the Never Sky pulled me into its fascinating world immediately.
The story in Under the Never Sky is told to us by two characters, Aria and Perry. They both are from two very different worlds that exist in the same space, and although they don’t know it yet, they both have very similar problems.
Aria lives in Reverie, one of the many protected domes that humankind created after the disastrous events of the Unity. The domes are a bit boring and grey at face value, but the inhabitants don’t worry about that; with their Smarteyes, they are able to escape into the Realms. If you want to have hanami under the sakura of Japan, all it takes is a thought. You can become a mermaid and swim to Atlantis, sing opera at the Palais Garnier, and participate in a joust in the Medieval Realm. There’s a Realm for everything, and everyone uses them. The Realms, they say, are better than real. It allows them to escape the escalating Aether storms (extremely hot electrical storms) by ignoring them. These domes are scattered across the world, protecting those whose ancestors were lucky enough to survive the Unity, which was a time of constant Aether storms that scorched the earth and lay waste to everything on it. Those who live in the domes call the outside world “the Death Shop.” If the Aether storms don’t get you, the air, savages, or cannibals will. Those who live in the Pods are told they will not survive out there. It’s Aria’s worst nightmare.
In contrast, although the domes occasionally fall under threat of the Aether storms, Perry comes from a world where they have to worry about them constantly. There is no dome to protect them. They don’t have the luxury of escaping into the Realms; they live in the moment as they try to survive. The people in the outside live in various villages scattered where the land is fertile and there is plenty of game to hunt for food. They swear fealty to their Blood Lord, and live in happiness when there are supplies and tighten their belts when they are low. Where Aria’s ancestors have lived easily in the Pods, Perry’s ancestors have benefited from the long term effects of living out in the world; they have the tools to survive despite it.
Their worlds collide in one moment, altering both of their paths and changing how they perceive their world. Suddenly, they have to come to terms with the life of the other; they need to turn their contempt around and work together in order to outlast the Aether storms.
As I’ve said, Under the Never Sky hooked me from the beginning. I couldn’t stop reading and finished the book in one sitting. I’ve discussed with my fellow readers before about the problem of young adult literature authors pushing the content of one well-written book into three in order to make it a trilogy (effectively killing the content completely), and thankfully, Under the Never Sky is not one of them. Other than the occasional odd name, I’m not annoyed by the characters. There’s a reason for everything that they do. Both Perry and Aria, along with side characters that come into play later on, are flawed. They are not perfect and have to learn how to adjust when both worlds come together. Veronica Rossi has also avoided (for the most part) the problem that 1st person narration has with the female protagonist whining about her problems. Aria has to adjust, or she will not survive. There can be no whining in a world that wants to kill you solely for being different.
Well-written, strong characters and just the right amount of world building (although I would have loved even more) has Under the Never Sky at 5 stars.