Launching an ambitious series of books as a first-time writer is never easy, especially in today’s world where the written word spreads around quicker than ever. You only have to look at the success of something like Fifty Shades Of Grey which was developed from Twilight fan fiction to see how times have changed in the world of literature. Lucy Saxon certainly hasn’t taken the easy route with her first publication from Bloomsbury, introducing us to the islands of Tellus in Take Back The Skies.
Saxon’s debut novel focuses on Catherine ‘Cat’ Hunter, whose father holds a senior position in the government, as she seeks to free herself from the pressures of familial responsibilities and an arranged marriage. Hunter has ambitions beyond the government that rules over her land, and certainly isn’t loyal to the cause, instead disagreeing with many of the liberties those in power take with the inhabitants of the island of Anglya and beyond. These include the Collections, where children are torn from their families. Luckily for Cat, she is exempt, but she has her own problems to deal with.
It’s easy to draw parallels with The Hunger Games in the best way possible – a headstrong lead character not dependent on gender, an uprising against power, and strong character relationships you invest in. Cat and Katniss certainly share numerous character traits but their upbringings couldn’t be more different, and Take Back The Skies takes a different approach to what may seem like a familiar idea. Cat herself isn’t as easy to like at times, with a stubbornness that can border on irritating, but Saxon manages to maintain a fair balance when it comes to Cat’s positives and negatives. It’s no surprise she has kinks to iron out, having been under the rule of her father for quite some time, and choosing to throw herself into the unknown with a big wide world out there full of unfamiliar faces and danger round every corner. There’s an understandable naivety and immaturity about Cat from time to time, but Take Back The Skies is not only about the literal journey she takes but the emotional one she goes on also.
The journey takes place on a skyship – Stormdancer – on which Cat stows away, pretending to be a boy. It’s an interesting question to address in terms of the treatment of someone based on their gender, and proves that it doesn’t matter what Cat is, she’s a headstrong and capable character and a good role model for anyone reading. Alongside her, the ‘hero’ Fox is almost a male version of Cat, just as tenacious and adventurous, but with a softer side hidden beneath. Everyone on board forms a dysfunctional family of sorts, but one that Cat feels more at home in than she ever does with her power obsessed father. Take Back The Skies isn’t about running away from your problems however, but more about finding your own path and, eventually, a way to solve those issues. Cat isn’t the type to simply put her own feelings first and has ambitions beyond what she wants, and it’s that determination and grit that readers will truly get behind.
There’s a lot of creativity and visual depth that you would expect from someone of Saxon’s background, having been heavily involved in cosplay for numerous years and being a self-confessed geek. The steampunk influences are clear here, and you can really imagine fans getting involved by cosplaying their own Take Back The Skies costumes. The world of Tellus is a mysterious one that lends itself to mystery and intrigue, and one that encourages the reader to use their imagination. Relationships here may be grounded in reality, but we are invited to imagine a whole new realm around them, and that’s part of the fun about Saxon’s writing. While the descriptions are vivid, there’s just enough of a gap left to fill in your own ideas.
Is Take Back The Skies perfect? No, and there’s certainly room for improvement here in the writing, but as Saxon’s debut, it’s an impressive and ambitious effort. It’s hard not to compare to others like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, ones that have taken the world by storm, but Take Back The Skies has the same spirit about it – one of a world of endless possibilities, where you can imagine each and every scene up on the big screen one day. Lucy Saxon should be very proud of her creation, as she sucks the reader in and toys with their emotions like the best writers out there. Most importantly, this is a world created that readers will want to return to and see what happens next. When you reach the final word of a book and feel desperate for the follow-up, you know you’ve read something good. Take Back The Skies is a strong opening chapter to what will hopefully be a successful series for many years to come.
Take Back The Skies is out 5th June in Hardcover, paperback and eBook formats from all good retailers.
Cosplay Photo Credit: Lucy Saxon as Clary Fray (Mortal Instruments) – Lisa Bee Photography