My mother selected her wings as early morning light reached through our balcony shutters. She moved between the shadows, calm and deliberate, while downtower neighbors slept behind their barricades. She pushed her arms into the woven harness. Turned her back to me so that I could cinch the straps tight against her shoulders.
When two bone horns sounded low and loud from Mondarath, the tower nearest ours, she stiffened. I paused as well, trying to see through the shutters’ holes. She urged me on while she trained her eyes on the sky.
“No time to hesitate, Kirit,” she said. She meant no time to be afraid.
On a morning like this, fear was a blue sky emptied of birds. It was the smell of cooking trapped in closed towers, of smoke looking for ways out. It was an ache in the back of the eyes from searching the distance, and a weight in the stomach as old as our city.
Today Ezarit Densira would fly into that empty sky — first to the east, then southwest.
Kirit Densira wants nothing more than to pass her wingtest and join her mother as a trader, flying between towers and negotiating deals. It never even occurred to her that her mother might have other ideas… or that she might fail her test. On testing day, she flies well, so failure comes as a complete shock — and goads her into reckless actions she probably wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
The backdrop of Kirit’s story is a wonderous and slightly terrifying city of living bone, its towers stretching above the clouds into the safety of the sky. The towers themselves are slowly growing, reaching ever higher, their lower levels abandoned and disused as new growth allows citizens to move up to higher — safer — ground. And through the sky float the skymouths, invisible predators feared by all good citizens.
The worldbuilding here is immense and impressive, with every aspect of society defined by the setting. Humans strap wings to their backs to flit between the towers; laws and customs are recited and memorised in an oral tradition; bone Law chips mark the weight of crimes around the wrist of those condemned. And the mysterious Singers keep the peace and hold the balance of power in the city.
Kirit wants only to fly and trade, but her path is shaped by secrets from before she was born. When she’s caught in the act of a crime that could bring down her whole family or even her whole tower, she’s given the choice: condemn everyone to suffer along with her, or join the Singers herself and renounce her family ties in exchange for a life of service. It’s hardly a choice at all. But becoming a Singer doesn’t put a stopper in Kirit’s curiosity, and she finds herself in a position to investigate mysteries she hadn’t imagined.
Overall this was a fun and philosophical fantasy adventure, with a unique setting and compelling social structures, but also a gripping adventure.
Updraft is published in the UK on 1st September.