Review: The Other Side of the Sky duology

2.5 out of 5 stars

Good start, but unless there’s a big plot twist coming, just get to the point. The Other Side of the Sky (3 stars) and Beyond the End of the World (2.5 stars), by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Nimh is the goddess of her people, the sole remaining heir to gods who left her people behind long ago and fled into the sky. She should have manifested her divine aspect by now – healing, growing, war, anything. But she hasn’t, and forces are stirring that the time of the divine is over, and that she is nothing but a fraud. North is the prince of Alciel, the islands in the sky. His people fled the land below a thousand years before, and nothing lives there now. Until he falls from the sky in a glider crash and learns they are very much mistaken. Together, Nimh and North must reconcile magic and technology, take on the usurper and would-be goddess Inshara, and bridge the gap between their worlds.

Meh. I was pretty into the first of these books. The idea of one civilization splitting, each leaving the other to become myth, is fun. Nihm’s world is primitive while North’s is advanced. This makes for enjoyable, if predictable, situations, like North has never seen an animal and Nimh doesn’t know what a watch is. Their worlds are deftly drawn, their challenges real, and their meet is cute. When North falls to Nimh’s world, he drops into a prophecy that could define her life. When Inshara, who claims to be the real Divine One, arrives, even I wondered if she might be what she claimed. So Book 1 carries itself well, if not wow.

Book 2 starts fine. Roles are reversed, people once again find themselves in worlds where they don’t belong. But unlike savvy, resourceful North proved to be upon landing below, Nimh really loses her pluck here. She becomes a bit of a wet noodle, incapable of much except wondering “what is happening?!?!?!” and being dopily lost. Even when she’s found. Even when she’s giving information. The characters head right for obviously wrong choices, which is the cheapest and dullest way to drive a plot. I got about a third of the way through Book 2 before I started to worry.

It did not improve. There is nothing wrong with the story or action, or even the characters per se. But the plot circles. The characters confronts the same challenge again and again, trying solve the same problem in only slightly different ways. It’s boring. It grates. And worse, the initial attempts have no chance of working. They’re paying lip service to drawing the story out, but they don’t ratchet up the stakes. Rather they dull the drama out. I wish this book had been half it’s length and cut right to the chase. Instead, what could have been a satisfying ending came far too late for me to still care.

I have read Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s co-written series Unearthed (their best, 3.75 stars) and Starboard (still quite good, 3.25 stars). The ends are similarly messy: in Unearthed, our upstart heroes get very dumb at random intervals; in Starbound, the heroine drags like an anchor through the last book. I still enjoyed both of those considerably more than The Other Side of the Sky.

Instead of this series, I recommend Amie Kaufman’s co-writing with Jay Kristoff in The Illumine Files and The Aurora Cycle. Both are incredible. I did not care for Meagan Spooner’s tired and unimaginative Hunted (2 stars), though her pretty average Sherwood (3.5 stars) redeemed itself with a 5-star plot twist.

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