Vaela Sun is a young girl from a prestigious family aspires to be a cartographer. For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two nations remain perpetually locked in combat. Most citizens lucky enough to tour the Continent do so to observe the spectacle and violence of battle, a thing long vanished in the peaceful realm of the Spire however for Vaela, the war holds little interest as she sees the journey as a dream come true: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land. But what starts as a sight-seeing adventure soon turns into her fight for survival as she is sucked into the combat between the two nations on The Continent.
I heard about this book some time ago and heard of its controversy. I was later informed this entire book was rewritten and sensitivity readers were hired for the edits. Given the effort applied to this book, I thought I would give this a chance and keep an open mind whilst reading it. I also kept in mind the question I always keep in mind when reading “is it in context”? For example: when a racist remark is in the dialogue between characters – is it portraying a character as racist and are those comments exactly what a racist character would say? etc which brings out the character quite clearly rather than a story just being offensive. What I took from this is it’s about a young girl who dreams to be a cartographer and lives in the Spire, an elite federation and was given a rare opportunity to explore the mysterious continent – a place known for civil disruption and war. What starts off as an expedition soon turns into a struggle for survival. To me, the plot and dialogue made sense and the way in which the protagonist responded to her situation clearly demonstrated how a young girl from an elite federation would respond when trapped in foreign lands and there is a significant language barrier. I found the story had more focus on the character’s feelings, though there is a lot of action (it is quite violent so I would say more suited to an older YA audience) and a relatively detailed pace but not too overly descriptive. The world building was structured well so you can picture all areas in the story.
Special thanks to Harlequin Teen Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.