Published: 1st November 2012 by Hot Key Books
Format: Paperback, 283 pages
Goodreads ● The Book Depository ● Booktopia ● Bookworld
Hunting the skies is not for the faint-hearted. In a world where water is scarce and deadly jellyfish swim through the sky, mollycoddled teenager Christien dreams of excitement and danger.
When he meets the exotic and alluring Jenine and her family of Cloud Hunters, he becomes determined to fulfil that dream ...
“Dreams don’t cost anything and they don’t usually hurt anyone, except, perhaps, the people who dream them”
Only very rarely do perfect books come one’s way. When they do, they should be treasured, shared, read and re-read. I haven’t read anything as exquisite and beautiful as The Cloud Hunters for years. My only complaint is that I wish there was more. A lot more.
Christien is a young boy on the very cusp of growing up, seeing the world differently, asking questions he would have never asked as a child. I’d peg him at between eleven and fifteen, but the story doesn’t clarify. It doesn’t matter – Christien’s adventure, his coming of age, will speak to everyone, his wry observations of adult life will provoke smiles, the way he views the world make you think. I think he’ll stay with me for a long time. Jenine, his class-mate and eventual friend, is equally interesting. Her Cloud Hunter heritage and pragmatic view on life are intriguing, signs of her unusual upbringing.
Together they lead us on a wonderful adventure of self discovery – plotted superbly by the author and – full of the weird and the wonderful. The world-building is superb: a planet made up of floating islands and a more viscous atmosphere, where the ‘sun’ is the fiery planet core and the ‘sea’ is the air. Ships sail on air, people swim in the air, and the skies teem with sea-based wildlife. Water is scarce, a precious commodity, traded for all other goods, and only the Cloud Hunters risk their lives to ply the trade. Everyone wants water, but everyone wants to hate the dark, mysterious people who bring it to their islands. It’s an amazing setting, and I loved getting to know more about the islands, the people who live on them and the ways in which life is different on this planet. I think the author spent a long time thinking this world through, and I found it to be internally consistent.
Although the world is imagined in rich detail, I think the plot is even more so. We’re told the story in first person, privy to Christien’s wonder, fear and curiosity, and always aware of his attachment to Jenine. While the world building does bog the story down, only very slightly, I think the plot weaves in and out of Christien’s inner monologue well. His eagerness to dream, to experience new things is hampered by the worry of his parents, the expectations of his society and the thought of what is ‘proper’: good boys and girls just don’t become Cloud Hunters.
“Maybe the most ferocious of appearances actually contain the most sensitive of natures; looks can be deterrents, they are the hard shells around the soft insides.”
The Cloud Hunters is a superbly told tale of courage and the power of dreams, one I think is perfect for all readers. It’s the book you read when you want to relax, take some time out, get away from it all. It’s a book that will stay with you long, long after you have turned the last page, closed the cover, and given a contended sigh.
The Cloud Hunters is available now in the UK and Commonwealth from Hot Key Books. It will be available in October 2013 from Sky Pony Press in the US.