Review copy provided by Tor Books. I think I’ve met Fran in person one weekend unless I’m forgetting another time (if so, sorry, Fran!), but we’re friendly online.
The best first novels are the ones where you can tell that the author is having fun with tropes and images they particularly enjoy. In the case of Updraft, that’s human flight via gliders. The humans in these books live in giant, at least somewhat-living structures, towers, that are interconnected with a few bridges but mostly conduct their trade and social contact through glider pilots flying back and forth. The Singers in the highest Spire keep the secrets of the towers, enforcing the Laws and protecting the tower denizens from the monsters who fly around them.
Or do they? Kirit and her friend Nat are trying to earn the right to fly alone between the towers as adults, but their curiosity leads them to some strange places and even stranger questions. They don’t have the backing of rich and powerful adults like some of their peers do, and the evidence that there’s more going on in their home than they’ve been taught keeps piling up. They take more risks and then more to find out what’s going on, and soon their loyalties to their home and each other are at risk. They find relationships they thought were lost and gifts within themselves that they never suspected existed.
This is really fine adventure fantasy that made me feel fourteen again in the best way.
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