Book of the Year 2014 (see all)
Blightborn by Chuck Wendig is the second book in The Heartland Trilogy, and is a huge improvement over the first book. I almost didn't read this book given how much the characters grated on me in the first book, but I have read a few books by Wendig, I had faith that there was a method to Wendig's madness, and Blightborn certainly repaid my faith with interest.
The story immediately follows the end of Book 1, with the boys (Cael, Lane and Rigo) on the run from an Empyrean security force and searching for a means to reach the flotillas above. Meanwhile, Gwennie and her family have been transported to one of the flotillas, but the reality of living in the sky is nothing like what was promised, with Gwennie and her family split up and spread out amongst the flotilla to act as servants or arm candy. And while all this is happening, the rebellion is starting to make some noise - the Sleeping Dogs are starting to wake up.
Blightborn is the book where the real story of The Heartland Trilogy comes to the fore. Cael McAvoy (aka Jerkface McDouchebag, see my review of book one here) is still an important part of the story, but his self-centred, immature, and poorly thought out motives and ideas are slowly subsumed into a story much bigger than himself. Rebellion. Rebellion is not a new concept, there are many stories that deal with different aspects of rebellion, but rebellion makes the story of Blightborn far more compelling than what was originally presented in book one. One of the things I really like is that Wendig doesn't make the leaders of the Rebellion very sympathetic at all. They are users, abusers, people who will do whatever it takes to achieve the end goal, even if it means manipulating their troops into positions so that they think they are willingly giving their lives to further the cause. Wendig leaves it to the readers to decide just how much the end justifies the means. We get to see rebels from multiple perspectives, as freedom fighters putting their lives on the line to make things better for the downtrodden and underprivileged, and as terrorists who are willing to commit genocide in the name of freedom. The contrast is quite stark, especially when Jerkface McDouchebag is the lens through which you are viewing the situation.
I'm still not a fan of Jerkface McDouchebag. He remains a petulant selfish child who is too self-involved to have any perspective. That said, his selfish attitude means that he is not immediately enchanted by the rebels and their cause. He looks at their cause and says "okay, but how does that really help me?", and it is from that moment that Jerkface McDouchebag slowly starts to grow (physically and metaphorically) and walk along the path that will eventually earn back his given name. I get the feeling that by the end of book three, I will be calling him Cael McAvoy once more.
I really enjoyed Blightborn, much much more than Under The Empyrean Sky, and it's because Wendig improved on everything I liked about the first book while addressing some of the issues. He increased the complexity of the world and underpinned it with a rich and fascinating history. He introduced a far more compelling overarching plot that I want to see through to its final resolution. He made the characters far more sympathetic and relatable, with a more diverse range of motivations driving these characters in interesting directions. He made me want to drop everything and read the third book, and for me, that is the most important part of all.
Review by Ryan Lawler
Under The Empyrean Sky
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