The orphan Moth has grown up in Calio, a city so high up on the mountains that it’s nearly in the clouds, watching Skyknights and dreaming of flying in a dragonfly of his own. As a peasant orphan, though, all Moth can do is work at the aerodrome and dream while he lives with his elderly friend Leroux and Leroux’s pet kestrel Lady Esme. Leroux often tells tales about the land beyond the Reach, an sea of fog nearby that never seems to end, which only grow more fantastical as the old man gets sicker. Moth’s friend Fiona is also an orphan but lives with her rich grandfather, the Governor of Calio. Neither are content with their lives, but are soon to find that the tales Leroux told are much closer to the truth than either of them would have imagined.
This book took a few pages to absorb me, but once I was hooked, I was really hooked and the pages flew by. This is certainly a hallmark of YA fiction; kids have limited attention spans, so the story has to be great and fast-moving to compel them to keep reading. Once Moth and Fiona go through the Reach, this is certainly the case with this book. We don’t know much about anyone who is helping them or anyone who is chasing them, so there is a lot of mystery surrounding their journey, especially given that they are hardly sure of what they are going to find.
The characters were also very sweet. Both of them are young teenagers. Fiona is an uncertain girl who, with unconventional red hair, believes that not only is she ugly, but that everyone in her life will leave her. Her parents’ death left her with deep scars. Moth is still a child at heart, which plays a big part in his actions in this book, convinced that everything can work out and even though he knows he isn’t going to be a Skyknight, his head is full of dreams. Both of them are orphans, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have people who love them. I think Fiona’s grandfather turned out to be one of the surprise great supporting characters in this book. Most of the rest are similarly noble, kind, and care for Moth and Fiona, willing to put their lives on the line for these two. Even the evil characters, for the most part, are ambiguous and not purely evil. Moth is particularly talented in bringing out the good in people with his innocence and his soaring ambition.
I thought the world was well done as well. While not terribly different, in that there are regular fantasy beings like dragons, mermaids, and centaurs, Marco adds some clever new ideas into the mix and I never felt like I was reading something that has already been done. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so I can’t give too many details away, but I did like the world and I hope that we will see more of it in the rest of the series.
I definitely enjoyed this YA fantasy novel. It was a touching journey for me as well as the two main characters. I would recommend it to both adults who might be in the mood for something fast-paced and exciting as well as for young adults.