Monday, June 2, 2014

DNF Review: Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon

Firstly, thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for this ARC <3

Date Read: May 17 - 23 2014
Release Date: June 5th 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Source: ARC via publisher
Genre: Steampunk
My rating:  (DNF at page 225)

"Catherine Hunter is the daughter of a senior government official on the island of Anglya. She’s one of the privileged – she has luxurious clothes, plenty to eat, and is protected from the Collections which have ravaged families throughout the land. But Catherine longs to escape the confines of her life, before her dad can marry her off to a government brat and trap her forever.
So Catherine becomes Cat, pretends to be a kid escaping the Collections, and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. As they leave Anglya behind and brave the storms that fill the skies around the islands of Tellus, Cat’s world becomes more turbulent than she could ever have imagined, and dangerous secrets unravel her old life once and for all . . ."


I would like to point out that I really admire Lucy Saxon for writing a book at such a young age. She’s got a lot of potential and talent. To get a book published at only 19 is a wonderful achievement and I commend her on that.

When I received Take Back the Skies at the beginning of March I actually wasn’t planning on reading it. However, as the release day draws closer the hype kept building and I thought, well maybe I should check it out. In a way I’m glad I did because I can see Saxon’s potential and how, with work, this could really get better with a couple more books.

The synopsis of this book implies that the protagonist Catherine escapes her stifling and privileged life by stowing away on an airship and having a wonderful adventure on board it. This was not the case. I was imagining something along the lines of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, or Final Fantasy X/Final Fantasy X-2/Final Fantasy XII and Howl’s Moving Castle. In fact, there is only one short journey on the airship and that’s it. The majority of the book is dealing with a government conspiracy and occurs on land.

Catherine Hunter is born into a privileged life as she’s the daughter of a government official. However, she despises the opulence she’s given and longs to get away. At only 14 I found this extremely implausible as her sympathising with the poor was just going a bit too far. I understood that her sneaking out at night to admire the airships allowed her to see the poverty of those around her but she wasn’t ever grateful for what was given to her. I really didn’t understand her hate towards her father – it wasn’t the familial hate we see in abusive parents where the child still feels an obligation to the parent. No, this was outright hate like she was a stranger without familial ties. I could understand that if she didn’t live with her father and distance made the relationship detached but she actually lived with him! And other than being overly strict, I couldn’t see what Nathaniel Hunter ever really did to her to warrant such loathing. Cat’s spirit is definitely admirable but her ambitious nature was not relatable at all. At 14 she thinks that she can change the world – that it’s easy. We all know this is not true but Saxon writes it as if it is so.

“How she wished to fly a skyship: the freedom, the boundless space, with no expectations from anyone but herself and her crew.”

The secondary characters were either all too nice or all too horrible in nature. There was this distinct black and white which I thought made the book even more naïve. I like books that have lots of grey space because it makes me question what’s right and wrong – that a lot of the time there is no right or wrong because that is humanity. Take Back the Skies was just too easy – these are the good guys and these are the bad guys. The crew on the airship were meant to have distinct personalities and I could see Saxon try to bring that through but why were they all so bloody nice? And the bad guys were oh so evil. Basically everyone was divided into these two groups and because of that I found absolutely no depth to anyone.

Of course there had to be a love interest and the romance could have been likable. Fox was the only ‘good’ guy that didn’t seem like he was under Cat’s spell. Or so we think. He was just hot and cold all the time without reasoning – I’m sure it was meant to show he was affected by Cat but I just couldn’t understand his vehemence towards her sometimes. He would get so worked about the littlest things or nothing at all. And then our little Cat, who seems so strong gets all flustered when he’s around. I couldn’t tell if it was insta-attraction for her or insta-love but it was borderline insta-love because by the time I stopped reading at page 225, they’d only known each other ONE WEEK. At four days of their knowing each other Cat herself had said something along the lines of “don’t you know me at all by now?” and how she couldn’t believe Fox didn’t trust her. Four days kid. YOU’VE KNOWN HIM FOUR DAYS. Basically everybody I’ve known my whole life I don’t trust. Trust is a hard thing to come by. So no. This just did not work.

“I don’t know you!”

“Believe what you’ve learned since you met me… Just trust me.”

I was expecting fantastic world-building because this is technically a steampunk. Sadly this failed in every respect. I wanted fantastic descriptions of the world as they flew to Siberene – I was expecting beautiful landscapes with intricate, picturesque descriptions of the palette of the islands and the sea. All I got was that the sky is apparently pretty and that there were large mountains. No showing, just telling. I wanted to hear more about these freaky storm barriers that the ship had to fly through. I was told this and then it was completely skipped over – I was waiting for the airship to be thrown about, for fierce winds and rain pelting the potholes. Nope. There is actually barely any flying in this at all which really disappointed me. Cat’s stowing away on the Stormdancer is just a trip to Siberene and back to Anglya which spans only a few chapters.

“Clouds drifted lazily above them, the endless blue-grey sea churned far below them…”

The plot was so darn convenient. Cat says let’s save the world and bring the revolution. Whole crew is suddenly on board with a 14 year-old’s plan. What about the consequences of this – who will rule the country? Basically, everything just resolves itself and I hated the convenience of everything. Cat gets into trouble, Fox saves the day. Cat sneaks around, doesn’t seem to ever get caught. Miraculously find out the plot twist by killing two birds with one stone and everything is just THERE all in one place. The writing itself was of the fantasy style – seemingly sophisticated and less colloquial but somehow it was so cliché it read like a children’s book.

“Cat’s right; we’ve been letting it lie for far too long now. The government seems to be escalating their plans, and who knows what their next step is.”

I just couldn’t deal with this book. The characters lacked depth, there was no world building, the plot was too convenient and the writing plain cringe-worthy. I have heard some people loved this so I guess it’s one of those hit or miss things. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did.


  1. Damn, I've only read negative reviews of this :( which is a shame, because the stereotype of teens being crappy writers just gets pushed further (when it's definitely not true).

    1. Yeah I know :/ sigh I was really sad this couldn't be better

  2. Oh man, another person who hated this book. I'm still stuck one third into it, so I can't really judge for myself yet, but I do agree. Her relationship with her dad was a little screwed up with no solid reasoning. Everyone was just good or bad - and you know what - I don't even like Fox. :/ I think I will keep on reading though, just to see what happens in the ending

    1. Oooh if I were you I'd stay away from any reviews so your judgement wouldn't be skewed anymore D: I find that if I read negative reviews of a book before I read it, I'll just keep looking for the negatives and not notice the positives.
      Tell me how you go!

  3. Such a shame you didn't love this, Jaz! It sounds like it had so much potential, and from such a young author! Ah, well. Great job at such an honest review xx

    1. *Sighs* thanks Saz. A little part of me wishes I never picked it up because I wasted time waiting for it to get better. Oh wells.