Where did you get the book: E-arc from Netgalley
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: Out now
WORLDS KEPT THEM APART.
DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.
Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she’s never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.
Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He’s searching for someone too. He’s also wild – a savage – but might be her best hope at staying alive.
If they can survive, they are each other’s best hope for finding answers
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*
What happens if you lived inside a bubble and your time is filled living out a fantasy life in a virtual world? But outside that protective bubble dome the real world is harsh and contains a terrifying danger? This is the world where Aria lives in, but she ventures out with a friend and some acquaintances on the outskirts of their enclave and gets disconnected from their virtual net, which borders near the outside. Aria uses this chance to try to get information about her missing mother who was stationed at another pod but has lost contact with her. She finds herself in the midst of trouble as their forbidden outing turns into a nightmare, when some of her acquaintances mischievous pranks turns violent and she is danger for her life. But she is soon saved by an outsider, Perry, who was foraging nearby and lives outside in the barren lands. Perry takes her back to his village after saving her. However, because of her encounter and for breaking the rules, she is exiled outside her safe haven.
Perry doesn’t escape unscathed due to the encounter. He is already facing growing tensions with his brother who is the leader of their clan, and because of their rivalry over decisions over his leadership, his nephew is taken by Aria’s people. On his quest to get his nephew back is where Perry came across Aria, and after he saves her, she agrees to assist him find information about his nephew’s whereabouts. Perry will also help Aria her find her mother.
I had a bit of trouble at the start of the story because of the confusion over the world-building especially with the sci-fi elements. Aria lives in an enclave where most people are locked into a virtual net where they can live out their fantasies, but they are able to experience real life actions at the same time. There wasn’t much of an explanation over the aether storms or how they came to be. And I also felt the pace of the book had a bit of a slow start despite the fast pace scene in the opening of the book. It was only until Perry and Aria met up again that the pacing and the story settled down and when it did, I got engrossed into the book.
This book is really about opposing themes and I love how Veronica Rossi explored this in the world she created. The two different societies who have split away, one hidden in a technological advance world but are insular in a lot of ways. Their enclaves are crumbling and decaying on the outside as well as breaking down emotionally and mentally on the inside with the society slowly going crazy because they have separated themselves from nature. I really felt that Aria was like Sleeping Beauty who had awakened from a dream of her fantasy world when she ventures outside, and Perry whose people had to cope with a stark and harsh life on the outside. But some of them have evolved along with the dangerous environment and their human senses such as sight, smell and hearing become almost super-human. And with resources that are diminishing and the terrifying beauty but dangerous storms of the aether becoming more violent and deadly, Perry’s people are also on the brink.
I really like this contrast of different societies and what they represented. I especially loved the setting of Perry’s village and society. I felt it was more earthy and primal with the idea of the Scires who are the evolved humans with the extra-sensory senses such as sight or hearing. Veronica Rossi’s descriptions of Perry smell of scents was rich and layered, and it really emphasize the earthy and natural nature of his character and people. However, I felt that Aria’s world was sterile and not as interesting, even though the descriptions of the virtual world were imaginative. With the themes of science vs nature and how that connects with the outside environment, and the inside with certain aspects of the characters, I really felt that these themes helped to cement the word-building. And with the their two societies going crazy on the inside with people struggling to survive and slowly fracturing in many ways, it added a level of depth to the meanings which the book conveys to the reader.
I also loved the characterisation of Perry. This was an alpha who was protective and sensitive, but he also made mistakes and learned from them. His relationship with his older brother was pretty complex and conflicted as they are both alpha types and I was surprised by the twists on how that progressed later in the story. But I adored his link with his little nephew who is one of his touchstone. There is a bonding trope, which Veronica Rossi introduces and I really like how that played out in the story which is called the Rendering, because Perry has to be careful who he bonds with and sometimes it can be unintentional and can form a life-long link. I think this will be something that will be explored further in future books, and it will be interesting to see how different aspects of this plays out.
I did find Aria in the first half of the novel a bit too bland. She has a beautiful voice and she’s like a fish out of water in this new world. I was beginning to think that she was going to play the helpless damsel. There is a role reversal when she became very proactive later in the book as she became the guide and protector for Perry when they have to venture into the virtual world. There is also a twist which was pretty fitting to her talent and it really helped to put her on an equal footing. I also loved the the theme of coming of age regarding her entry to the outside world. She starts her period and freaks out because this is unheard of in her world where fertility and natural bodily functions is suppressed, and sex is mostly practiced in the virtual world and that again touches on theme of technology vs nature.
Another strong aspect of the story was the fact that Aria and Perry don’t fall into the pitfalls of insta-crush — although there is a definite connection between them and the common elements they share as they were both threatened with being cast out and potentially losing the people they love, even though they are from opposing societies who mistrust each other. Both Perry and Aria were pretty wary and at times mistrustful of each other, but there was no forced angsting. I think this strengthened the growing romantic tension and made it more believable and the way the love story develops is pretty satisfying!
The ending is also full of twists, and Veronica Rossi made a few plot points that really shocked me especially concerning Perry’s fate. The supporting cast of characters also enriched the story, and the book had a bit of a slow start and some aspects of the sci-fi elements needed expanding. The imaginative and stark setting with a great cast of characters, and a sweet love story — along with the lush earthy descriptions — swept me away into this book. Under the Never Sky is a fantastic start to a brand new series that is rich, vivid and thought provoking. I eagerly await for the follow up!
I give Under the Never Sky a B+