Blightborn (The Heartland Trilogy #2) by Chuck Wendig
Genre: Young adult dystopian
Release date: July 29 2014
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
The nitty-gritty: A worthy and energetic sequel, with several new characters to love, filled with action, adventure, secrets, and danger. Jeezum Crow, people—read this book!
**Mild spoilers ahead!
I’m gonna kill Cael McAvoy.
Then I’m gonna get Gwennie back.
Another glimmering thought: I love her. I love her more than I love anything. More than this boat. More than Momma. More than me.
Love and hate.
Two strong tastes that sit bright and bitter on the back of his tongue, and next thing he knows he’s ditching the spyglass and reaching behind him to grab a corn sickle, the blade gleaming along its moon-silver curve. Felicity’s knife, once upon a time.
Before he even knows what’s happening, he’s running.
Hate carrying him headlong into the corn.
In a sea of “second in a series” books I’ve read so far this year—and might I say that many of them have been disappointing—I’m happy to report that Chuck Wendig’s Blightborn is a more-than-worthy follow-up to Under the Empyrean Sky. Not only are the stakes higher this time around, but the characters are even grittier, the bad guys (and gals) nastier, and the fighting more violent. This series is definitely for young adults who are closer to the “adult” side, as the graphic violence is a bit over the top at times.
The story picks up soon after the end of Under the Empyrean Sky, as the various characters have been scattered here and there by events at the end of the story—and you really should read Empyrean first because I don’t want to spoil it for you. Our three intrepid friends Cael, Rigo and Lane are on the run through the corn. Boyland is trying to find Cael and exact revenge because he thinks Cael killed his father. Wanda is trying to find Cael because he is her “intended.” Cael is trying to figure out a way to get up to the flotilla, a city that floats above the ground, and find Gwennie, the girl he loves. Boyland also wants to find Gwennie, because she’s his intended…and add into the mix a whole new slew of characters who are also out to get Cael. It seems like a mixed up, crazy plot—which is partly correct, but Wendig keeps things together by telling his story in short chapters that switch from character to character, allowing the reader to clearly grasp what’s going on.
This time around we get to see what life is like on Ormond Stirling Saranyu, the floating city where Gwennie and her family have gone to live, having won the lottery at the end of the last book. But life is not all roses and fancy parties. Gwennie learns some horrible truths about her new life, but she also meets a boy named Balastair who eventually becomes her ally. There is plenty of danger both in the air and on the ground, as the POV switches back and forth. Although it was fun to see the life of the privileged on the flotilla, I actually felt more invested in what was going on in the Heartland below a bit more. Cael is still my favorite character in this series, and because he spent most of his time on the ground, well, let’s just say my heart was in the Heartland.
If you’re looking for a page-turner, then you’ve definitely found one. Wendig writes like a cocaine addict—or maybe he’s just hopped up on coffee from his Chemex—in either case, Blightborn is fully of crazy shit, and it never really slows down. My only issue with the story is that it might be too much. Not only is the action non-stop, but there are a lot of characters in this story, maybe too many for my aging brain cells to remember. But I did fall in love with a couple of new characters, especially Balastair, the scientific genius behind the Pegasus project, and his bird Erasmus; and a ten-year-old girl named Squirrel, who charmed the pants off me with her enthusiastic attitude and mad knife-throwing skills.
Despite all the action, there are some quiet and sweet moments, mostly between Cael and Lane, and Lane and Rigo, as they each feel the need to confess some very personal and life-altering secrets. One character in particular broke my heart—Cael’s sister Merelda, who ran away from home in the last book to hitch a ride on the flotilla, but unfortunately got more than she bargained for.
As usual, Wendig’s writing skills are top-notch. He’s one of the few authors I’ve read that really understands rhythm in prose writing—he knows when to hit the beats, and he knows when to pause. It’s the kind of writing you want someone to read out loud to you.
And of course, THE CORN is back. Corn plays a very special role in this series. It’s scary, it’s creepy, and it’s everywhere. Not since Children of the Corn have I been so grateful that I don’t live near a corn field!
The story does end on a cliffhanger—and you know how much we all love those (not!)—so here’s hoping book three isn’t too far away from publication (although I can’t find any trace of it on Goodreads…) If you haven’t started this series, I highly recommend it. Just take a deep breath before you start reading: you’re going to need it.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.
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