Well let me tell you, my initial thoughts about the book were dead on. It was an absolute joy to read and I loved it. Veronica Rossi has written an extremely compelling story with characters I adored and a world that I eagerly look forward to visiting again.
But enough preamble, let's get to the goods, shall we?
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
I loved the way that the two cultures in this book -- those who inside domed cities and those who survived outside, dealing with Aether storms, food shortages, etc. are handled. The problems each society faced made sense for their circumstances and felt very real, and the customs, values and ideals of each society seemed to be well thought out, too. Neither was shown to be better then the other; both had their own quirks that made me understand why someone would want to live there (under the circumstances the book is set in) and I could understand why characters would wish for something else.
I love how we got to see each character in their natural environment before they were both thrown into the full forward adventure they were meant to undertake in this book. It helped tremendously in the building I just talked about and it showed what each character had to lose -- and to gain -- by ending up traveling together.
I also really liked how slowly the characters trust in each other built, and how characters could change how they were thinking throughout the story, both for the good and for the bad. It made me really question "What does this person really want? Really mean?" etc. which is important. If a reader is considering what's going on and is thinking about it, you've succeeded in making them a participant in the story, they are actually taking part. This is always a huge plus.
The last thing I will say is that I like how the overall mood and tension of the book shifted as characters came and went. The tension between Perry and his brother v.s. the joy between Perry and Talon; the behavior of those Aria lived with v.s. the way that she and Perry's attitudes changed toward each other. People were often just as, or even more, dangerous then the environment. And they were not above trying to fool me into thinking otherwise.
Aria was a heroine I quickly came to admire. Her quest, to find her mother, is noble. Despite being niave and afraid she meets each challenge she faces throughout the story head on and to the best of her ability. While she has faults, such as her prejudice against the outsiders, she is willing to admit (if through actions rather then words) that she is wrong and to take any necessary actions to make that right.
Perry is a fantastic hero and I totally loved him. I liked how much he wanted to take care of everybody and how, despite how much he discredited himself, his actions spoke of someone else entirely that he just didn't seem to see in himself. As well as being compassionate (to his own, at least!) he was also decisive, thoughtful, brave and kind. I think that Veronica Rossi was really walking a fine line trying to show both the feral nature of being an outsider and showing that Perry was a decent and honourable man, and I think she really succeeded with this.
Roar was hilarious and instantly likable. I think that the timing used to bring him in was clever and he was one of the characters who could change the entire dynamic of a scene just by being in it.
I love the fact that the romance was, in its way, a journey that paralleled the journey the characters took physically. While they were wandering father from their homes and letting go of the ideas they had been raised with, they were also equally journeying toward one another. The romance in Under the Never Sky was satisfying and interesting, but it was never rushed. Between the prejudices between the various people living 'under the never sky', the ideals of each society and the situation the characters found themselves in, I think the romance highlighted many of the book's strongest and most interesting themes and that they, in turn, enriched the love story.
Under the Never Sky did not just meet my expectations, it totally exceeded them. Adventure, romance, memorable characters -- at times touching, terrifying or even funny -- what more could you possibly want? If you've been waiting to read this book like I was, wait no longer.