I received this book for free from the Publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess
Published by Saga Press on October 24 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Format: Finished hardcover
Buy on Amazon
I feel very lucky to have a copy of this beautiful book in my hands. Gregory Manchess is first and foremost a very talented artist, but I’m grateful he decided to step out of his comfort zone and write a story to go along with his amazing artwork. According to the publisher’s notes, there are over 120 oil paintings showcased in this book, and I can only imagine how long the author must have worked on this project. I was expecting to see plenty of wonderful artwork when I started reading Above the Timberline, but I did not expect to enjoy the story as much as I did. Manchess has crafted a thrilling adventure tale with a strong cinematic sensibility that reminded me of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and even at times, Avatar. The story is fairly short, since the main focus is on the artwork, and I flew through the entire book in only a few hours.
So what is the story about, you ask? Above the Timberline takes place far in the future, when global warming has created a world of ice and snow. Wesley Singleton is a young air pilot whose explorer father Galen disappeared six months before the story starts, while searching for a mythical city hidden beneath the ice. He is believed to be lost, maybe even dead, but after receiving a message from his father that says “AIRSHIP DOWN. RATIONS LOW. NOWHERE” Wes is determined to mount his own expedition and find his father. In order to fund the operation, he makes a rather dubious deal with one of his father’s old friends, a man named Braeburn Wilkes. In exchange for supplies and transportation to the Waste, Wes agrees that if he finds the mysterious hidden city while he’s looking for Galen, he’ll hand it over to Wilkes.
But the journey to the Waste, a freezing, snow-laden landscape full of dangerous beasts and hidden crevasses, is more perilous than Wes imagined. Before he can even make it to his father’s last known coordinates, he’s detained by a group of indigenous people called the Tukklan, who question Wes’ claim that he’s looking for a hidden city. Before things get too rough, a girl named Linea helps Wes escape the Tukklan and together they continue the search for Galen Singleton. But out in the Waste, there are dangers around every corner, and some of those dangers are human…
Reading this book felt like reading a graphic novel at times. The story is well paced, short enough to keep the reader’s attention, and hits all the right highs and lows of an adventure story. And like a graphic novel, the story itself is a bit on the sparse side and feels rushed, especially near the end when the author wraps everything up rather abruptly. But with stunning and atmospheric artwork on every page, I didn’t really mind these story flaws.
I loved the characters, even though they are slightly derivative. Yes, Wes reminded me of a young, headstrong Luke Skywalker, but I loved him all the more for it. When Linea joins him on his journey, it gave the story just what it needed: a strong female character who is doing just fine on her own. And it certainly didn’t hurt that Linea has a bunch of polar bears that she hangs out with, who protect and help her.
Which brings me to the animals in this story. Most of you probably know I’m a huge animal lover, and Above the Timberline has plenty of unusual creatures that will make any animal lover happy. The polar bears were my favorite. Wise and loyal, they are practically part of Linea’s family. Not only do they offer protection to those they love, but they even allow Wes and Linea to ride them (which comes in handy when they are trying to escape the bad guys!) I also loved Wes’ raptors, huge birds of prey who are trained to deliver messages.
Manchess’ world is an interesting combination of futuristic technology and old-fashioned steampunk elements, and although this might sound confusing, I was surprised how well each element worked together. And what makes this story even better was its humor and heart. I loved the wry sense of humor that shines through, and I especially appreciated the complex relationships between Wes and his parents. It doesn’t hurt that the characters are searching for a fantastical city that may or may not exist (and the reveal when it came was very cool and unexpected!), and I loved every moment of the journey.
If you are looking for an unusual storytelling experience, then look no further. Above the Timberline blew me away with its well-drawn characters, exciting plot and most of all, Manchess’ stunning artwork. Highly recommended!
Big thanks to Wunderkind PR and Saga Press for the review copy.