Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Cael McAvoy is on the run. He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged.
Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move—one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life.
The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted?
They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.
Thoughts: Picking up immediately where Under the Empyrean Sky left off, Blightborn takes readers on an impressive ride not just through the Heartland but now also on one of the Empyrean flotillas, seeing both the low and the high of the world’s 2 main societies. Gwennie and her family have won the Lottery and get to live on a flotilla, doing grunt-work and being the lowest of the high rather than the life of luxury all the propaganda promised. Cael, Lane, and Rigo are on the run, trying to make their way onto the flotilla to get Gwennie and Merelda back. Merelda is mistress to a wealthy and powerful Empyrean man and doesn’t want to give up what she’s gained. And we introduce a few new characters, part of Empyrean society, that allow us an interesting look at the other side of life.
Blightborn takes everything that started in the previous novel and expands upon it wonderfully. Characters get a lot more development, and we see much more from the perspective of various female characters and they play a more active role in the story than they did previously, which was something I found lacking in Under the Empyrean Sky. It’s good to see the development of characters who could previously be summed up largely in their relationship to Cael but who now are distinct and unique and have some interesting perspectives to bring to the story. I was surprisingly interested in Merelda’s viewpoints, since YA literature is filled with people like Gwennie (tough, determined, with a drive the right the wrongs she sees), but there are fewer characters like Merelda, who mostly want an escape from a hard life and who are willing to lower themselves in the eyes of others in order to get it. Merelda has a sort of unappreciated selfish bravery. She ran away and left her family to suffer the consequences, and she’s someone’s bedmate in exchange for luxuries, but it took guts to uproot herself and take charge, falls in love (or at least develops a strong infatuation), and she herself says that part of what she likes about the arrangement is that she can send supplies and treats to her family back in the Heartland. It may not be the most admirable position anyone’s ever taken, but it was actually a nice thing to see a character being portrayed as selfish and material without them automatically being the bad guy in the piece.
Which brings me to a similar point: this is a book where nobody is the hero. Everyone has their own motivation, everyone makes mistakes, everyone’s blinded by their own wants. People do bad things for good reasons, people get lie and hurt and the only thing that really ties half of them together is the fact that they’re all a part of one overarching storyline. Honestly, the only characters I actually like are Lane and Rigo, but just you try and stop me from reading about any of the others; you don’t have to like a character to find them interesting and to want to read about them, and you don’t have to like them to know that the story around them is a good one. This is the kind of book that really brings that home.
But while the increased number of characters whose perspective we get to see is definitely a good thing, it did have its drawbacks, especially toward the end when there was a lot of heavy action. Flipping back and forth between so many characters, all doing a wide variety of important things all at the same time, made things very chaotic and hard to follow. None of the viewpoints could be omitted without creating a plot-hole, admittedly, so none of it was needless, but so many fingers in the pie, so to speak, dragged the action to the point that it had very little tension anymore.
I’m glad this is a trilogy. I’m glad I still have one more book in this series to look forward to, because the future that Wendig created is one that straddles the fine line between “very believable” and “completely out there” and yet manages to stay coherent and real the whole time. I want to know what’s going to happen with Cael and the Blight. I want to know if and how the Empyrean will be brought down. I want to see more of the Sleeping Dogs and their plans. I want to know if Lane is going to fall for someone who’s not a jerk!
Under the Empyrean Sky was a good book. Blightborn kicked it up a notch and turned a good story into a great one. With this trend, I’m expecting the third book to blow me away, to be as impressive as I’ve come to expect from Wendig’s writing. If you start this series, it’s one that you’re not going to leave behind and forget about. From the very real and increasingly diverse cast of characters to the twisted setting and its social commentary to the exciting plot about bringing down a corrupt and abusive system, it’s the kind of series that those hungry for action and adventure will simply devour!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some corn.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)