Summary: In what appears to be a post-apocalyptic version of our world, people live Above on floating islands that rest above the clouds, unhindered by bad weather because in the upper atmosphere nothing blocks them from the sun, moon and stars. The only life Elia knows is Above, but when the islands start descending and breaking apart and Elia finds herself caught up in a mystery she doesn’t understand, events conspire to put her Below. Completely out of her element and convinced the Scavengers who take the dead bodies from Above away are going to get her, Elia runs into Hokk, a resident of Below who has been banished to the Prairies for ten years. Meeting each other reveals parts of their shared world they never knew about, and starts them on a journey to unravel secrets kept by those in charge of Above and Below.
Number of Pages: 310
Age Range: 13-15
Review: Below by Jason Chabot plunges his reader into a world where three main societies exist. Those who live Above, those who live Below, and those who have been exiled to the mountains.
Living Above seems like a dream. With dark skin and two sets of eyelids, the people are perfectly adapted to live as close to the sun as they do in an environment unsheltered by cloud cover. For those Above there is no rain, there are no storms, and lightening is something that happens under the ground instead of in the air. Elia is part of a monarchy ruled by twin emperors, and she works as a laundry maid in the kingdom. One day while she is working she comes across a mysterious bone and her life is never the same. The bone is the first of the toppling dominoes in Elia’s life, all leading up to her falling Below.
Except Below for those Above is a scary place. All of their dead are dispatched to Below, with the understanding this will appease the monster-like Scavengers they believe in. When Elia gets there though, having the great fortune to land in water instead of crashing into the earth, nothing is as she expected. There are no Scavengers, and a whole society exists that Elia never knew about. When she meets up with Hokk and his fox Nym, the information they exchange about their two disparate lives is eye opening for both. Clearly secrets are being kept in both places, and Hokk uses Elia as a cover to get back into the city he’s been exiled from, promising to help her get back Above.
It definitely has the feel of a first book in a trilogy (the Broken Sky Chronicles to be exact), and I know from the author book two is coming out in six months. While it was more of an introduction, there was enough to hook me and make me want to read the next book, Above. I just have to know what happens. Will Chabot reveal if the islands came from Earth or the Moon? Will Elia find the other lady that fell from Above and also didn’t die? What is the secret that reveals the fallibility of the twin emperors? Will Elia ever see her family again? Can Hokk control his attraction to arson? So many questions I can’t wait to learn the answers to.
My favourite part was that as science fiction fan, I was engaged from the start. I liked the characters, I wanted to know more about how the world developed and the mystery of it all was well-paced with action-packed, heart-pounding moments. The creepiest part is how I can already see it as a possible future for human race. Can’t wait to see where Chabot will take it.
“Before long, he had to stop the gazelk and get off. In the persistent rain, he sunk to the wet ground on hands and knees, his head hanging down. He wanted to vomit, to rid his stomach of the horror he felt inside. He gagged and his eyes watered, but nothing more. The horror could not be expelled. He would have to carry it with him.” – Hokk from Below by Jason Chabot, pages 33-34