Book Review: Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

11594257Title: Under The Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopian, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 3rd 2012
Rating: 4 stars
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Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.
As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.
They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers abarbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY

The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure.

When Aria stops receiving message from her mother, Lumina, who is currently residing in a pod called Bliss and doing scientific research on a secret project, Aria knows something is terribly wrong. Desperate to find answers, she attempts to seduce Soren, the son of one of the Councel members, to help her find her mother. Things however go horribly wrong as they make it to Ag6 with three of their friends, and Soren decides to light a fire. Living in the Realms, where everything happens using virtual software, no real pain is ever felt and no real fires are ever lit, it’s natural that teenagers who are in the real world for the first time, want to experience a bit with what they can and can’t do. Unfortunately, Soren isn’t just any teenager. He’s also a tad bit insane, so he ends up practically burning down an entire forest and trying to trap Aria inside of the forest as well. Luckily for Aria, an outsider named Perry, who is other protagonist of this book, decides to intervene on her behalf. He wounds Soren severely and rescues Aria.

As Aria is led before the council to go to trial, she discovers her best friend Paisley died in the fire. Like that isn’t bad enough, the Councel Member who held her trial happened to be Soren’s Dad. And not surprisingly, rather than helping her, he lets his men ditch her in the middle of the desert-like land outside of Reverie and the Realms. Aria has been raised to believe that exposure to the Outside world will kill her, but apparently it doesn’t. Meanwhile, Perry is struggling to face the reality of his little cousin’s approaching death and his continous struggles with his own brother, Vale, the Blood Lord of their tribe. To make matters wars, when the Dwellers appear – a name the Outsiders use for Aria’s people – they grab Talon and take him along. Vale blames Perry for his son’s disappearance, and the latter is forced to flee their tribe. Coincidentally, he runs into Aria again. She’s looking for her Smarteye, to read her mother’s last message and to find the recording she made of what Soren did to her. Perry is looking ofr a way to save his cousin. Both of their goals lead them to Marron, someone who can allegedly fix the Smarteye, so Perry reluctantly drags Aria along for the adventure of her life.

I must say that it took me about sixty or more pages to be convinced of this book. But once I was, Under The Never Sky completely and utterly blew me away. The imaginary, the descriptions, the setting, all of these are amazing. The dystopian world of Aria and Perry is one where people live through emotions and their daily lives by using software and visiting virtual Realms. They can travel back to Realms portraying the Middle Ages, they can visit Fantasy Realms where dragons linger, or even underwater Realms. Everything is possible. Babies are designed using a selective genetic process and DNA combinations. People live well into their second century. Illness is unheard of, injury unthinkable. The downside of all of these perks is that nothing is real.

In Perry’s world however, everything is a little too real for Perry’s liking. The Outsiders live, gathered in tribes. They don’t use modern technology and their villages and rituals reminded me of paleolithical settlements. Yet some of the Outsiders are Gifted. There are Auds, Scires and Seers. Auds can hear thoughts and somtimes even emotions, because their hearing is enhanced. Scires can smell these kind of things, and Seers can see perfectly clear in the dark. Perry however is an anomly because he’s both a Seer and a Scire, and an extremely powerful Scire at that. He can smell emotions. The world outside of the Realms is harsh and brutal and cruel. Aether storms are raging everywhere, food is scarce and illness common. There is a sharp contract between the world outside and the Realms, between Perry’s and Aria’s world.

That’s why it’s amazing to see how their interactions change throughout their journey. At first, Perry hardly answers any of Aria’s questions, and he behaves rigid and cold towards her, although he does threat her wounds and offers her a share of food. But as their journey progresses, and they grow closer together and become actual friends, we as readers are confronted with the fact that the contrast between their respective worlds may not be as immense as we thought at first glance. The more we learn about the Realms, the more we realize it’s a threatening place as well. Ilness roams through the Realms just as it does through the world outside. The difference is that the council members simply hide all evidence of it. And as Aria msut come to terms with the fact that her own, protective shelter, is corrupt, Perry must come to terms with a harsh truth about his own reality, and that they may not be so different from the Dwellers, or Moles as they like to call them, as they’ve always anticipated.

Aria is an interesting character. I really liked her. She does her best to adapt to her new living circumstances, she doesn’t spent hours whining about going home or anything along those lines, and even though her feet hurt like hell, she just continues walking as long as she has to. She doesn’t utter a word of complaint and thus shows a great inner strength. She’s also intelligent, witty and reliable. Perry on the other hand is an entirely different story. I’m not that fond of Perry, to be honest. He’s brave and strong, but he’s also whiny and a bit childish. He continously blames himself for everything that goes wrong to everyone rather than to grow up and accept the fact that the world doesn’t always evolve around him. On top of that, there was just something about him that made me go ‘yuk’. Although I don’t exactly know what. I certainly would never be interested in him. No, I’m more of a Roar fan myself. Roar is one of Perry’s friends who shows up half way through the novel. Now, that’s an interesting character with a charming personality I could see myself falling for. Roar is bright and shiny, whereas Perry is dull and boring. He is exotic and exciting, whereas Perry simply reminds me of a caveman.

Perry and Aria’s love affair is rushed, boring and predictable. I’m not a big fan of it. But thank god this book at least doesn’t offer a love triangle. I’ve been there and done that, thank you very much. What I’m hoping for the next book is to see some Roar and Aria moments (although I highly doubt it, the author’s mind seem set on Perry) and I would like to see Soren return. I like him as a bad guy, since he has something predictable about him. I would recommend Under The Never Sky to all fans of young adult dystopian novels, and I myself will definitely look forward to the next installment in this series!

This book counts towards the Dystopia 2012 Challenge, the Fantasy Challenge 2012 and the Debut Author Challenge 2012.

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