Broken Sky was written by L.A. Weatherly and first published in 2016. It focuses on a teenage girl striving to help keep the peace in a 1940s style dystopian America. The novel forms the first part of the The Broken Trilogy and is followed by Darkness Falls (2016). The final instalment of the series has yet to be announced.
Eighteen-year-old Amity Vancour is a peace-fighter for the Western Seaboard. It’s her job to take part in aerial dogfights against the peace-fighters of other nations in order to determine what legislations are passed for the good of all. That has been the way of things ever since mankind nearly wiped themselves out in a nuclear war. Now, conflict is a thing of the past. Sure, peace-fighters sometimes die, but they are just accidents. The era where people fought each other is long past.
However, Amity slowly begins to learn that peace is not assured. As a result of a fight that she loses, the Western Seaboard is forced to give up a third of their oil rights. The result is widespread inflation and loss of livelihoods, but Amity is convinced that she was not responsible. She’s sure that there was a malfunction with her plane, but her superiors quickly brush off her claims.
As Amity investigates further, she begins to uncover a network of lies and thrown fights. Everything leads back to the Central States – a dictatorship run by John Gunnison, a madman who trusts the stars to guide him – and Amity soon realises that the peace-fights have been fixed for a long time. However, her discovery may have come too late. The people of the Western Seaboard are growing increasingly amenable to Gunnison’s ideology and those that she loves are in very real danger…
I decided to pick up this book because I’ve heard so many positive things about it. When the sequel was released last month, every blog I went on seemed to be showering praise for all aspects of the story. In light of this, please take my review with a pinch of salt. I seem to be in the minority with my feelings towards this book so maybe there’s something that I’ve misunderstood. If anything about my review makes you curious, I’d say to check it out. I’d be interested to hear what you think.
To begin with the positive, the premise of Broken Sky is original and intriguing. It presents a vision of a far-future earth in the height of its second 1940s. Unlike many dystopian novels, it doesn’t present a grim vision of the world. Quite the opposite, as the Western Seaboard is relatively peaceful. Every nation of the world has found a way to settle their differences through the peace-fights and therefore the concept of war is just a dim memory.
The threat in the story comes in the form of Gunnison’s regime. This is where you feel the distinct inklings of a typical dystopian tale. Although the Central States seem wealthy and idyllic, hidden beneath this is nothing but fear. People make every attempt to seem content, patriotic and lively. The people of the Central States are required to wear a badge displaying their zodiac sign at all times. Their star charts are held on public record and, if they go against the status quo, State Astrologers are charged with finding any flaws in their destinies. The result is that they are labelled “discordant” and exiled to “correction facilities”. And that’s the last that people hear of them.
This is the premise that attracted me to the series. I’ve reviewed a lot of dystopian novels for this blog but this book sounded totally unique. And, to be fair, it was. It was completely unlike any other that I’d read. Unfortunately, it still didn’t go far enough to meet my expectations. We simply don’t see enough of Gunnison’s regime to be truly afraid of it. The discordants disappear from their homes but we never find out precisely what happens to them. The horrors of the Central States are only talked about in whispers. Compare this with the likes of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. In these books we know that society is rotten because the protagonists experience it first-hand. In Broken Sky, we hear that people die in the correction facilities but we don’t see any evidence of this.
The novel is also incredibly slow burning. While the first chapter was thrilling, with Amity on the run after being framed for a murder, the novel then enters an extended flashback that takes over 400 pages to get back to this point. Novels of this length need to be able to build and maintain tension but I personally didn’t think that Broken Sky was successful in this regard. It was just too long and significant events were few and far between. By page 100, I was wondering when the conspiracy would begin. By page 200, I was starting to get bored. By page 300, I found myself struggling to get through it.
Yet when the novel did find its feet, it seemed to move at break-neck pace. Over the last hundred pages, Amity finds herself a fugitive, is captured by her enemies, and the first war of a thousand years breaks out. After such a slow start, it felt like these significant events flew by far too quickly. Ultimately, the story ended on a cliff-hanger that didn’t resolve any of its lose ends. It even broke off on the hint that a major character might not be exactly who they first appeared to be. I still find endings like this to be incredibly weak. Cliff-hangers can sometimes work but I just hate it when they leave a story feeling incomplete.
The characters also never really spoke to me. While Amity is certainly strong-willed and independent, I also found her to be very naïve for an eighteen-year-old. Even though she grew up in the shadow of the Central States, she seemed to be wholly unaware about the way that the world works and that her impulsive actions could spell doom for her friends and family. I also sometimes found her chains of logic to be really confusing. I mean, towards the climax she just kind of decides that Collie must be dead. With no evidence as to this. Where did she pluck this from? Why on earth would she assume he was dead just because she hadn’t seen him in a while? Am I missing something here?
I suppose at least her relationship with Collie was nice and slow to develop. While they did have some kind of attraction to each other from childhood, I was grateful for the lack of insta-love. The gradual increase in their relationship did feel very natural and the flashbacks of their childhood were some of the best scenes in the story. Yet the passion was muted by the time skips. I struggled feel Amity’s passion because the story often jumped forwards a couple of weeks between chapters, so I never felt like I really saw things fully develop.
The other “narrator” of the story is Kay, although her sections are inexplicably told in third person. I felt that Kay had the potential to be more interesting as she was right there in the Central States with Gunnison but she didn’t really have much of a personality. She seemed to be obsessed with getting close to Gunnison for some non-disclosed reason (despite the fact that she did not believe in astrology) and, when she finally did, she seemed to instantly grow obsessed with him. Maybe I missed something here, but I don’t understand her motivation at all. Was it purely for a chance of gold and glory, or was there something more?
Anyhow, I’m starting to ramble so I’ll wrap things up. Broken Sky has a unique concept but, unfortunately, I was left feeling disappointed. The book is long, slow and has some weak characterisation. Maybe I’ll take a look at the sequel at some point to see if things improve, but I’m in no hurry to any time soon.
Broken Sky can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook from Amazon.co.uk