01/08/2009. Contributed by Vikki Green
pub: Gollancz. 650 page enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-08372-1.
check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk and www.jayamory.com
'The Clouded World' is an omnibus edition of Jay Amory's books 'Darkening For A Fall' and 'Empire Of Chaos'.
'The Clouded World' moves into darker territory with this collection. 'In The Clouded World', Az and Cassie have to prevent an all-out war against the Airborn and in 'Empire Of Chaos' they have to confront the more personal consequences of the events of 'The Clouded World'.
'Darkening For A Fall' begins with an assassination attempt on the Airborn leader, Lady Aanfielsdaughter. Az manages to prevent it but is injured in the attempt. During his convalescence in hospital, he is kidnapped by an extremist Airborn faction as a bargaining chip to use against Lady Aanfielsdaughter's peaceful policies towards the Groundlings. Az is seemingly betrayed by his friend and mentor during this time and is profoundly disillusioned by the incident. Az escapes his captors with the help of his brother Michael and Cassie Grubdollar.
They are all caught up in the Groundling offensive against Primsburg and all the other sky cities. Az is mistaken for a Groundling and heads for Craterhome with Cassie in an attempt to stop the war in its tracks.
Az is profoundly disillusioned by the events of the last book at the start of 'Empire Of Chaos', this isn't helped by his brother's injuries nor Cassie's disappearance on the ground below. Cassie and her family have been forced into hiding by the events of 'The Clouded World' and she is not able to let Az know where she is. In the course of her adventures' she uncovers the origin of the Airborn. The book's main theme is Az's quest for Cassie and his role in the world.
It is counter-pointed by Michael's need to come to terms with his injuries and Cassie's quest for survival. It is a more intimate book than the previous three and is poignant as change is coming to the world. The events outside Az and Cassie's stories are motivated by an old enemy of Az's, counter-pointed by Az and Cassie's search for one another and their defeat of another old enemy.
'The Clouded World' is aimed at the young adult market and has engaging teen-age protagonists. Their families are vividly portrayed and neither is acting in a vacuum. Their families and friends figure heavily in the books. The stories don't shy away from the consequences of people's actions and deals with the themes of disability, insanity, trust, revenge, loneliness and selfishness in an uncompromising yet humane way.
The world building is phenomenal throughout the tetralogy. The sky cities each have characters of their own and the ground beneath the cities also has a life of its own. The details of how the Groundlings have coped in a world with no sunlight and how the Airborn have adapted to a life in the skies are fascinating. How the changes starting in 'The Fledging Of Az Gabrielson' have affected all the characters' lives and how they have dealt with those changes have been riveting.
Some have dealt with the changes better than others, some seek to take advantage of the turmoil while others sought to do the best they could for everyone. Clues on how the world came to be the way it is are revealed piece by piece in each book until 'Empire Of Chaos' pulls all the threads together and ends on a note of hope that the future for the Groundlings and the Airborn will be better for them all.
I've been riveted by each book in the series, they are real page turners. The action is relentless, nothing is as straightforward as it seems, the clarity of plotting is superb and each of the main characters is so vividly drawn that I have cared about each and every one of them. The villains of the piece are also vividly drawn and each has a believable motivation for his or her actions. The characters come over as real people, deeply affected by the momentous events they are living through. I'd love to read more about the characters and the world they inhabit.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA