The Skylark's Song by J.M. Frey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I dunno. It took a while to actually get into this. It felt like the first three chapters were such a slog to get into. Is it because it’s steampunk? Is it because of the exposition? Is it because of the voice? I don’t know! It kinda bugged me a bit because I really wanted to like this book like super a lot because hey, it’s JM Frey. Lol (Sorry, I know I have biases). Maybe my head just wasn’t in the right place at the beginning, when it takes off, it takes off.
Robin Arianhod dances the sky with the Coyote despite all the factors against her: that she’s poor, female, and a Sealie. She knows she isn’t supposed to be there—but she’s fought her way through and she’s a survivor. She’s not going to let any Benne take her dreams away, now that she’s got it. But then the unexpected happens, and now the Klonn have her.
Frey delves into difficult themes in this duology, though it’s all very prettily packaged into an exciting adventure of one Sealie woman defeating the odds (and maybe falling in love). As much as wealthy white men try to tell the rest of the world that anyone can make it through hard work and grit, there are many factors that can keep a person down, no matter how hard they try. Wealth is one of them, and how its distributed. Education is another—and how much access someone has to it, which is usually due to wealth and opportunity. Talking about opportunity, that comes down to what is and isn’t open to you depending on where you come from (ethnicity), what you believe in (religion), or how much money you have to bribe your way in (oh look, wealth again). And luck, of course. Being in the right place at the right time, or knowing the right people—not just knowing, but having them like you as a person and not just as a token.
Aaaaannnywaaayyyy, Skylark’s Song is a fascinating dance of culture clashes, subterfuge and sabotage. There’s layer upon layer of meaning hidden between the lines, whether it’s marriage lines and honey, gliders and religious songs, or hairpins and chess. And then there is the hum of quiet respect, the buzz of distrust, and the tender pulses of new love. And the awful, awful question. Would you betray your country for love? Or would you betray your love for your country?
And how do you know if that love is real?
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from REUTS Publications via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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