Tuesday 5 March 2013

Skylark by Meagan Spooner

Published in paperback by Corgi February 2013
333 pages
The din of the clockwork dawn was loudest in the old sewers, a great whirring and clanking of gears as the artificial sun warmed up. I paused as mortar crumbled from the ceiling and hissed into the water below. Harvest Day. This could be your last sunrise, I said to myself. If you’re lucky.
Summary from GoodReads
Sixteen-year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky. Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed barrier of energy enclosing all that’s left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children's innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. When it’s Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped. Forced to flee the only home she knows to avoid life as a human battery, Lark must fight her way through the terrible wilderness beyond the edge of the world. With the city’s clockwork creations close on her heels and a strange wild boy stalking her in the countryside, she must move quickly if she is to have any hope of survival. She’s heard the stories that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in secret—but can she stay alive long enough to find them?
Review by K. M. Lockwood
Skylark is an interesting addition to the selection of YA books with a strong central heroine and a dystopian setting (see Slated reviewed here). Written as though recalled by the female lead, it starts in a strange steampunk version of the future. The reader becomes intrigued by the Resource and Harvesting. 
Gradually the peculiar terms are explained through Lark’s traumatic experiences and the threat to our heroine becomes clearer. It is both pleasing and effective that the intended teenage reader is not talked down to, and by avoiding ‘infodumps’ the pace of the unfolding adventure is kept up.
There are few major characters, which increases the focus on Lark’s growth as an individual and means the betrayals and unexpected alliances are all the more intense. I can’t say much more because of spoilers, but the portrayals are quite individual. Meagan Spooner has developed an intriguing and sometimes nightmarish surreal world – reminiscent of the films of Guillermo del Toro.
UK readers may find the use of some Americanisms unintentionally amusing – I do feel a good edit would help – but the pace of the straightforward chronological tale carries you over this. Clearly, Skylark is part of a series – a trilogy is promised. There is a resolution to a major element in the plot, but plenty of other strands remain. 
Readers who enjoy Lark’s adventures will look forward to ‘Shadowlark’ soon. It is ideal for readers over twelve who like an adventurous central female character on a quest, a disturbing post-war society in an alternative future and a touch of magic.

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