Note: There are necessarily spoilers for Book One of this series but not for this second book in the “Under the Never Sky” trilogy.
I loved Under the Never Sky (see my review, here); it was one of my “top ten” reads of the year. Rossi sets up a fascinating sociological confrontation in her post-apocalyptic world between those who live in sheltered pods (“Dwellers”) and those called “Savages” who were left on the perilous Outside.
In some future time, a massive solar flare corrodes the earth’s protective magnetic field, allowing violent energy storms called “the Aether” to strike the earth and destroy much of it. The peril-filled landscape inhabited by the survivors is painted by Rossi with swirling Van-Gogh-like storm funnels roiling the exposed atmosphere. Both Dwellers and Outsiders have learned to survive in their own unique ways, but now the storms are intensifying, and both groups are in danger.
In the first book, Aria, 17 and a pod dweller, gets evicted out into the open to prevent the secrets she discovered from being revealed. Her exposure should have meant her certain death, but she gets rescued by a “savage,” 18-year-old Perry (Peregrine). He was on his way to the pods to try and find his beloved nephew Talon, who had been captured by the Dwellers. Aria also wants to get (back) to the pods; she believes her mother is in danger there. Wary of each other, Aria and Perry reluctantly join forces to reach their common goal of infiltrating the pods. In the process, they come to see that they are not so different after all, and that in fact, they don’t want to be apart.
This second book begins with Perry, now 19 and leader, or “Blood Lord” of his tribe – the Tides – trying to figure out how to get his people to accept Aria, a hated Dweller, into their midst; they still barely accept Perry as their leader! The two decide to pretend they aren’t involved romantically – that might be too much for the tribe. In fact, Aria fears even her very presence is undermining Perry’s authority, and she takes off in secret with Roar, Perry’s best friend. Roar is searching for Liv, his love who is Perry’s sister. And Aria is being blackmailed by one of the leaders of the pods, Counsul Hess, who is threatening to hurt Perry’s nephew Talon if she doesn’t help Hess find a safe haven for the Dwellers.
Meanwhile, back at the Tide compound, newcomers arrive, and one of them, a bold and beautiful woman named Kirra, causes Perry to question his faith in Aria. After all, she did run off with Roar, and indeed, she and Roar had undeniably become quite close. But when the compound comes under attack, Perry makes a discovery about himself and Kirra that clarifies to him what being a “Blood Lord” really means.
Discussion: Book Two is also excellent, although some of the novelty that made the first book so appealing is of course gone. But Rossi makes up for it by enabling us to deepen our knowledge of these very appealing characters, grow closer to them, and watch them mature. As they become stronger, they also learn how to use those strengths. Perry and Aria still have problems communicating, but they are trying to cope with that as well. As Perry remembered his father once advising him:
“…love [is] like the waves in the sea, gentle and good sometimes, rough and terrible at others, but … it [is] endless and stronger than the sky and the earth and everything in between.”
Evaluation: As I noted about the first book, this series has it all: adventure, bravery, danger, suspense, tenderness, devotion, betrayal, and loyalty. Love of family and tribe are as important to this story as romantic love, and any of them can become inextricable by the process of “rendering.” Rendering is getting tied to someone in a bond that makes another’s needs your own, and makes it inconceivable for you not to have that person’s life bound up with your own. This series truly qualifies as a saga, and is one you won’t soon forget!
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2013