Summary: Without warning, the world comes to an end for Hannah and Amanda Given. The sky looms frigid white. The electricity falters. Airplanes everywhere crash to the ground. But the Givens are saved by mysterious strangers, three fearsome and beautiful beings who force a plain silver bracelet onto each sister’s wrist. Within moments, the sky comes down in a crushing sheet of light and everything around them is gone.
Shielded from the devastation by their silver adornments, the Givens suddenly find themselves elsewhere, a strange new Earth where restaurants move through the air like flying saucers and the fabric of time is manipulated by common household appliances.
Soon Hannah and Amanda are joined by four other survivors from their world—a mordant cartoonist, a shy teenage girl, a brilliant young Australian, and a troubled ex-prodigy. Hunted by enemies they never knew they had and afflicted with temporal abilities they never wanted, the sisters and their companions begin a cross-country journey to find the one man who can save them—before time runs out.
Thoughts: While I was reading Flight of the Silvers, I was struck with the thought that the book feels very much like what could happen if you took an idea that might typically appear in a speculative YA novel and scaled the whole thing up for adults. A group of people being forced together after their world ends, discovering they have strange new powers, a parallel reality that still seems somewhat futuristic and alien. It has so much in common with many YA novels I’ve read. I have no idea if that’s what Price intended while writing this, but either way, I’m glad that I was given this impression. I’ve often wondered why some awesome ideas seem stuck in the realm of YA and never get expanded upon or switched around to see how they function with a more adult cast and written for a more adult audience. Here, I have something that I feel meets that description pretty well!
In a nutshell, the world is destroyed. But to select people, a man or woman appears, slaps a coloured bracelet on their wrists, and transports them to a different reality, one that branched away from the timeline of our world in 1912 after the Cataclysm, an explosion of tempic energy that destroyed a large chunk of New York. Rumours of strange children born near the blast zone trickle down through the years, rumours that say these children had weird powers and could manipulate tempis at will, without the aid of technology. The same powers that the transported people from our world suddenly find themselves with, coincidentally enough. At the heart of all this is the Pelletier Group, people who seem both determined to help the new arrivals — called Silvers after the colour of their bracelets — adjust to and hone their powers, while simultaneously shielding them from the outside world. But all that comes to an abrupt and violent end when it’s revealed that multiple hands are in play, all with their own objectives, including a time-travelling murderer, national law enforcement, and a group of people intent on saving their world from the same destruction that befell the world of the Silvers.
This book has a lot to take in, a lot of twists to the plot and playing with time and energy, and there’s a reason this thing clocks in at over 600 pages. If you have a hard time grasping the idea of time travel and multiple realities and the combination of both at once, then there may be too many twists for you to enjoy it. I don’t think so, though. There’s a benefit to having your main cast of characters be newbies at all the strange powers they have, and to a world that runs on power different from they’re used to, and that’s that it allows for good explanations. There’s enough scientific speculation about things to make it all seem very plausible, while still leaving room for growth later if there’s some gaping scientific flaw that I’m not knowledgeable enough to spot but other people are. The idea of harnessing what is essentially the energy of time in order to provide new technologies is a fascinating one, and one with a lot of potential, and it was fun to see the myriad ways that Altamerica was different from the America in the real world, which is (for all intents and purposes) the world that the main characters grew up in.
The characters themselves were decently interesting, though some of them felt a bit underdeveloped. For my part, I had difficulty at times remembering the difference between David and Zack, since they often acted and sounded quite alike in text. Mia and Theo seemed to have the most personality, and were the ones I was most interested in reading about, since they were the ones most likely to exhibit emotions more complex than just fear or anger, and also not as prone to having hints dropped about them involving some kind of shady past. Amanda was interesting enough, with her struggle between her faith and practicality, but she didn’t seem to experience that much growth.
And Hannah, well, let’s just say I’m on the fence about her. Like Amanda, she was interesting enough to read about, but her characterization seemed inconsistent. At the beginning of the book, I felt like I could relate to her quite a bit. An actress who loves the work even if it doesn’t pay the bills that well, friends who are more fair-weather than true-blue. Large-chested, and seeming a bit self-conscious about it, as evidenced in two scenes: one where she realised that someone in the audience of the play is likely ogling her chest and it actually makes her pause in her song, and a second where she mistakes someone staring at her in general as staring at her chest. Speaking as someone who has that, um, particular affliction, this reaction isn’t uncommon. People stare. It’s uncomfortable. So I liked seeing a book in which this was addressed. Only later, she gets tired of not being paid attention to and cheerfully invites people to comment on the size of her breasts. And goes from being presented as someone whose friends take her a bit for granted to someone who flits from relationship to relationship because she can’t stand not having the attention. And it just all seemed so incongruous that I wondered sometimes if Price forgot the character he started with and just went in a whole new direction without bothering to consider earlier scenes.
So over all, the characters weren’t particularly inspiring, but they weren’t all so dull as to be forgettable, either. But presentation was far from balanced, and some side characters felt better developed than main characters.
Price does have a talent for phrasing and a gift for wordplay, though, and some of the narrative was quite poetic in places. That being said, there was a bit of a tendency to ramble and let some scenes run longer than they really needed to, inflating the book to an almost unwieldy degree. The plot is complex enough, with different factions and their objectives, the plight of the Silvers and their powers, the new world they’re living in, and the notion that all of this is being scripted by people even further ahead in the future, for reasons I can guess at but weren’t stated outright. There much in this novel that leaves you guessing. Not in the way of dangling plot threads, but in the implications of events and technology and tempic power, and it’s fun to extrapolate how things might work and what might happen if this thing was different or that thing happened sooner. It’s a novel that stretches your comprehension of time, and does so in a very entertaining — if overblown — way. Even if some scenes were needlessly inflated, there’s plenty of action and intrigue to keep the plot going, with pieces of the mystery being unveiled little by little to give you a slow but solid grasp of the big picture.
Price’s novel is ambitious, and it shows, and I think for the most part the ambition pays off. It’s not perfect, but it’s a strong beginning to what could be a powerful series, one that has a lot of potential and I want to see go very far. It’s full of tropes and isn’t the most original concept, drawing themes from many other popular stories out there, but it puts them together in a way that I don’t see very often, and I think it ought to get some points for that. It’s worth reading, especially if you’re the sort of person who, like me, will read a YA novel and wonder what the concept would look like with further-reaching implications and an older cast of characters.
(Received for review from the publisher.)