Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The Magic of a Dystopia
Magic is a fickle thing. A world open and full of magic can see it corrupted and misused. A world with no open magic can find it persecuted and hunted. But what about a world that needs magic and has lost it? In Skylark by Meagan Spooner, magic is something everyone needs, but only a few can create it.
Lark has never been harvested, and at her age, that is incredibly uncommon. When the city decides to harvest your magic to power the protective wall and their various machines (including pixies- little bug-like machines used to catch citizens if they break the rules), it is an honor to give up your magic and help the city. When Lark is finally up for harvesting, something is very different about her experience. They keep her and harvest her magic more than once- no one has ever needed more than one harvesting because no one is Renewable. When Lark, almost drained of everything that makes her Lark, stumbles upon a woman trapped and being drained of her magic, she realizes this will be her fate- a renewable to be held and hooked to wires, sucked dry. When one of the guards gives her the key to escape, she doesn't hesitate, but it lands her outside the wall. And she has heard the stories all her life about what lies outside the wall.
Without the wall to keep the magic in, people have lost their minds. Their magic dissipates, driving them crazy. Lark has heard the stories, but she isn't sure what to trust. When she finds a place to hide, she is discovered by a pixie, she manages to remove its tracking device. Nix, the pixie, cannot report back to the city, but it can help her find the Iron Wood, the place said to be a haven for refugees like herself. But she needs more than Nix to survive. When a ragged boy arrives and helps her, she can't believe people could survive out in the wild. Orin agrees to take her to the Iron Wood, but he is scared of such a place and won't be finishing the journey with her. But there is a lot of land between the city and Iron Wood, and that land is full of cannibalistic madmen who look more like monsters than the shells of the people they used to be. An with a whole city after her, crazy cannibals trying to eat her, and her own companions a surly boy and a traitorous machine, how can Lark possibly find a place where she feels like home?
I have to say, this book was certainly a new take on the dystopia and the magic angle! I really enjoyed the way Spooner wove all these elements together. It seems like they shouldn't go together, but Spooner creates this brilliant web that brings them into one complete story. It was really a great story, and the element of magic made it all the more mysterious. The story was broken into three distinct parts: the city, the journey, and the Iron Wood. This separation made the story a little broken up, but I actually liked it! The only thing I struggled with a little bit were the characters. I liked Lark, but she wasn't the most memorable of characters. You don't get enough of Orin to really want her to stay with him despite the dangers. And that all made me love the story, but not become totally devoted to them. Although, I will tell you that ending is exciting and will have you on the edge of your seat waiting for the sequel!
This is a good book for a variety of readers. It is completely clean, although there is a smidge of violence with the monsters in the wild. The idea of harvesting your citizens to power the very thing that protects them is an ethical conundrum. It would provide a number if interesting research, writing, and discussion topics for you and the student reading the book. Spooner does a great job at building such a complex world, and there is still much to be learned and understood, so you will be anxious to read the rest of the trilogy!