I started Chuck Wendig's Under the Empyrean Sky about a month ago. I got it from the library at the time, thinking that as a YA book it would be an easy read. But I couldn't get into it at all. So back to the library it went.
I wanted to try again a few days ago. So I bought it on my Kindle and started reading. To my amazement, I was now into the story and didn't want to put it down!
Under the Empyrean Sky is the tale of Cael McAvoy. Cael is the captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, the second best scavenging crew of Boxelder. Cael's crew flies over the corn fields of the Heartland, looking for anything useful that they can sell to support their families. Cael's tired of being bested in the scavenging game by the mayor's son, the captain of the best scavenging crew in town. But when he spends the crew's ace notes on new panels from his ship just before his ship gets trashed, he's not sure what to do. To make matters worse, he's worried about losing his first mate (and love of his life) when the Empyreans announce their arranged marriages (Obligations) in a few days. And with his mother sick, his sister running off again and his father barely able to scrape by, Cael isn't sure how he'll keep his family afloat. But that's life in the Heartland.
Under the Empyrean Sky was a really interesting book. The world reminded me of The Hunger Games, with the Heartlanders being like the districts, and the Empyrean controlling the world and making the rules from above (quite literally - the Empyrean live on flotillas, flying around above the earth, closing schools and generally making life miserable for the "unenlightened" Heartlanders below them). The Empyrean have outlawed all crops except the corn, which ravages the earth, spreading and killing all other plant life. Their one consolation to the Heartlanders is the Lottery; once a year, a Heartland family is selected to live on the flotillas with the Empyrean.
Cael's crew was pretty great. There's Lane, Cael's helmsman, who lost his family and now lives alone. Lane isn't looking forward to the arranged marriages because he doesn't want to marry any of the girls. The third mate, Rigo, has an abusive father who has sucked the boy's confidence from him. But even though he's afraid, he still manages to find his courage when he really needs to. And Gwennie, the first mate, is the brains of the entire organization. Unfortunately we don't get to see a whole lot of her (spoiler: she's Obligated to the mayor's son; Cael spends a lot of time pining for her or fighting over her, but we don't get to see a whole lot from her perspective). And Cael's dad, Pop, is pretty awesome (another spoiler: he's growing an illegal garden with the help of hobos!)
I guess I was just in the wrong frame of mind when I started reading Under the Empyrean Sky the first time. But I'm super glad I gave it a second chance. And now I can't wait for the second book, Blightborn, which comes out later this month!