by Skye Melki-Wegner
Published by Random House Australia
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
“People accepted us. Believed us. Just confidence and costumes, and the willingness of others to believe in what they see. But midnight is over, and it’s time for unmasking.”
Skyfire is the third book in the wonderful Australian YA fantasy trilogy, Chasing the Valley. Skye Melki-Wegner pulls off a very satisfying sequel in Skyfire. Danika and her team of refugees, fleeing dystopic Taladia, finally make it through the treacherous borderlands to the legendary safe haven of Magnetic Valley.
The Valley turns out to not quite be a green paradise of harmony and joy and Morris-dancing, unsurprisingly! Their first encounter is seeing a girl brutally shot down by her countryman. Danika hears Tindra’s cryptic dying words:
‘Fire,’ Tindra whispers. ‘Firestones.’
I shake my head, confused. ‘I don’t know what –’
‘Hourglass.’ This time, the word is so faint that it feels more like a memory. ‘Midnight …’
This and more leads to Danika’s musing:
But the people of this country have devised alchemy beyond anything we’ve seen. If they can crossbreed hawks and foxaries, and set fire to the sky, what else have they created in the centuries since they broke contact with Taladia? What other weapons?
What if King Morrigan’s obsession was born not of greed, but of fear?
Dun – dunn- dahhhhh!
But our band of fugitives has no choice – they must try to fit in to this new society somehow, because there’s nowhere else to go. Their integration into Lord Farran’s bizarrely segregated society does not go smoothly, and they just keep on stumbling over secrets they cannot ignore.
Skyfire is a ripping adventure with excellent pacing. The lively stakes-raising gives momentum to the story that persists to the last page. I love the worldbuilding in this series, and the slow elaboration of the magic system, starting with the individual magical Proclivities, and extending to – well, spoilers, sweetie. The mashup of technology, alchemy, and magic sets the series apart from most other fantasy I’ve read – it’s not quite steampunk, not quite medieval fantasy, and not quite urban fantasy. I also like the elucidation of how people’s characters are entwined with their proclivities, sometimes in quite unexpected ways. Plus, a magical supervillain who hangs out in a volcano? Sign me up!
Skyfire also offers some real-world ideas and implications for young readers to mull over: there are two very different dystopias (and hints of a third) at war, with none more evil than the next; and the ordinary people of the societies end up being the victims. Should people obey, keep their heads down, and try to stay safe, or put themselves on the line to rebel and maybe enact change? There are meaty discussions to be had here about individualism, collectivism, and rebellion, should any high school teachers decide to use this rich material.
I’m mostly just sad that this ride is over. And am very much looking forward to whatever comes next!
[yellow_box]Skye Melki-Wegner lives in Melbourne, Australia, and also at www.skyemelki-wegner.com and on Facebook. The first two books in this series are Chasing the Valley and Borderlands.[/yellow_box]