“Have we really come so far, when a tour of the Continent is so desirable a thing? We’ve traded our swords for treaties, our daggers for promises—but our thirst for violence has never been quelled. And that’s the crux of it—it can’t be quelled. It’s human nature.”
For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two nations remain perpetually locked in combat. Most citizens lucky enough to tour the Continent do so to observe the spectacle and violence of battle, a thing long vanished in the peaceful realm of the Spire. For Vaela, the war holds little interest. As a talented apprentice cartographer and a descendant of the Continent herself, she sees the journey as a dream come true: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land.
But Vaela’s dream all too quickly turns to nightmare as the journey brings her face-to-face with the brutal reality of a war she’s only read about. Observing from the safety of a heli-plane, Vaela is forever changed by the sight of the bloody battle being waged far beneath her. And when a tragic accident leaves her stranded on the Continent, Vaela finds herself much closer to danger than she’d ever imagined—and with an entirely new perspective as to what war truly means. Starving, alone and lost in the middle of a war zone, Vaela must try to find a way home—but first, she must survive.
A privileged young woman struggles to survive after being stranded in unfamiliar, hostile territory. Aspiring mapmaker Vaela Sun has grown up in the nation of the Spire, in a culture that has abolished war. For her 16th birthday, her parents take her on an airship tour of the Continent, where the rival Xoe and Aven'ei peoples appear determined to wipe each other out. When the airship is destroyed, Vaela's only hope is to make a new life among the Aven'ei until she can get home. As she assimilates into their society and falls for handsome Noro, she adopts a new goal: persuade the Spire to intervene and end the war. Drake's debut novel comes with a controversial pedigree, having been substantially revised following early criticism of the depiction of the cultures of the Continent. That aspect is improved, but Drake still offers a predictable romance coupled with a "sheltered protagonist goes native" storyline; in one scene, Kaela gleefully attempts to introduce indoor plumbing to the Aven'ei, only to discover she has no idea how it works, either. The worldbuilding and premise have potential, but the story falls short in execution. Ages 12 up.
Personally, not the Best novel, but it mostly kept my attention, and that was good enough. Quite lengthy, but really tells the story well.
Never heard of this book before, but when I read the first two pages at my library I couldn’t put it down. Had to buy it on my iPad (don’t trust myself in hardcover — I always loose books).