Every avid reader adopts a short list of books, authors and series that they hold above the rest. There are many great books out there, and then there are treasured books. Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky series is treasured by me. It seems to me, to be a smorgasbord of science fiction, fantasy, character driven relationships and thrilling action.
As far as science fiction for teens go, this is always a strong recommendation for me. Familiar themes such as a Romeo & Juliet romance, a dying world and two teenagers who can save it, make it a comforting, seemingly easy read. On paper, summarised as such, it seems rather recycled. However, Rossi never seems content with a simple story.
She weaves into it themes of leadership, familial responsibility, questions of belonging, sacrifice and loss. Is it okay to murder your brother for his throne if you believe his rulership jeopardises the lives of your tribe? Can you stay with the boy you love if his people reject you? Should you take in impoverished allies who had previously saved you, if your own tribe is near starving? Can you ask a child to sacrifice themselves for a large group of people? These are just a few of the complex moral decisions that the main characters, Aria and Perry, have had to face over the course of the series already. Now there are more to come with Into the Still Blue, and Rossi doesn’t pull any punches.
Reading this book felt like being trapped in a hurricane—swirling around on a crazy adventure, not quite sure where you’ll end up next and how. I’m not sure if surfing a hurricane is fun, but this book definitely was. Fun, funny, sad, heart pounding, tragic, happy, terrifying. With two major villains teamed up for trouble and a looming deadline to save everyone, the situation seems impossible. Yet Rossi pulls it all off impressively, weaving it all together with impressive skill so that the story doesn’t lag or flounder under the weight of such a demanding end.
Most of all, it’s the characters that pull this story together. Not just the main leads, Aria and Perry, who have a beautiful relationship together without it falling into repetitive, dull territory. Roar and Aria’s is one of the best relationships in this book, their friendship and Soren’s interactions offering a comedic relief to the oppressively depressing content matter. No character in this series is wasted or under written, yet none are safe. People die, and often, but they are never throw away characters of little importance and their deaths are meaningful.
Rossi’s writing is in constant improvement, graduating since Under the Never Sky. It’s descriptive without being burdened by flowery prose, only taking the time to reference what’s necessary, but doing so richly. I can’t recommend this series enough. I’m definitely going to miss it, but I also cheerfully look forward to anything else Rossi writes in the future.