I know that it’s generally a bad idea to judge a book by its cover but when the cover for The Never Tilting World was dropped in Shealea’s blog, I knew right then and there that I had to get my hands on it the moment it was published. Lucky for me, I’ve had the incredible honor of partaking in a major perk of being an active book nerd in this little community: blog tours! That’s right, somehow I was able to get my hands on an eARC of The Never Tilting World and fangirl about it months earlier than I expected.
Here’s an abridged version of my experience reading The Never Tilting World:
jaw: on the floor
hotel: trivago (I couldn’t resist)
The Never Tilting World: An Epic Story about Sisters, Sacrifice, and Survival
Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: 15 October 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
This book was a RIDE. The first few chapters were a little slow but when it gets going, it gets going fast. I swear I whizzed past the remaining 70% of this book. When I was at the last like 5% of the eARC, I was gripping my Kindle so hard that I’m surprised I didn’t break it. And that ending! HOT DAMN.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me just quickly share a couple of the main reasons why I loved this book.
First off I just have to applaud this book for how well it tells such an epic story. Although this book literally spans the entire breadth of the world of Aeon, I never really felt lost or out of place because of how well grounded the story was. I’m not a huge fan of journey stories because I suck at directions and geography in general but The Never Tilting World always read so clearly that it was easy to visualize where the characters were. The book was such a great read because it brought you from one hemisphere to the next without ever jarring you. Well, me.
I think I was able to immerse myself in the world of Aeon so easily because the main characters were really engaging too. See, this book tells the story of four main characters: Odessa, one of the twin goddesses, lives in the perpetually night in Aranth; Tianlan, Odessa’s new Catseye (healer); Haidee, the other twin goddess, lives in the never-ending daylight in The Golden City; and Arjun, a cynical scavenger with just the worst luck ever. Each chapter is told in one of the main character’s first POV so we get a pretty good idea about the individual characters and their struggles.
Another thing that I’d like to commend this book for is how distinctive the voices for each main character was. I was never confused as to whose head I was in because each character actually felt like a completely separate person. With so many main characters – and first person POV too – it can be too easy to have similar-sounding voices. The Never Tilting World manages to not only give us intriguing characters that we’ll love, but also characters that you can recognize almost immediately. Ask any write and they’ll tell you that that’s no easy feat.
Speaking of characters, I gotta say that this book really had great LGBT representation as well as disabled rep. I won’t spoil which characters are in a gay relationship (though it is revealed pretty early on… but the reveal is too satisfying to spoil) but let’s just say they’re pretty cute. The Never Tilting World is yet another blessing this twenty-gayteen.
As for the story itself, at the risk of repeating myself, it was a pretty wild ride. When the summary described this book as Mad Max meets Frozen, it wasn’t kidding. There was so much more violence than I expected. I was literally shook to the core when a whole ass crew of cannibals showed up. Though, to be fair, the people outside the Golden City do suffer endless sun so it shouldn’t have been too shocking to find some people turning feral. However, I would rather describe this book as Mad Max meets Avatar: The Legend of Korra, because of a couple of reasons: one, the magic in Aeon was purely elemental; two, there’s hints of steampunk not unlike Korra’s world; and three, teenage hormones abound.
Lastly, before I move on to my (hopefully) mini Book Talk, I would like to note that although Rin Chupeco herself states in her author’s notes that this book came to be because of the recent, pressing issue of climate change, this book wasn’t at all a heavy-handed, simplistic, environmentalist story. I’m not saying that I don’t like books with the message of taking care of our environment but I have experienced books where the well-meaning author ruined their story because it sacrificed subtlety and verisimilitude with its Save the Earth agenda. That’s one of the main reasons why James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series straight up died after book 3. He seriously had his kid characters go on an environmentalist crusade. It’s as dumb as it sounds.
Overall, this book had a lot of things that I loved: a high stakes adventure with charming kids who just want to do the right thing, a fascinating magic system that feels real because of its capabilities as well as its limits, and a world that’s so well developed that it actually feels like a character in itself.
Which leads me to…
Mini Book Talk: The World as a Separate Character
Typically, my Book Talks, where I go on ad nauseam about a certain aspect of a book or of writing in general with the hopes of making a point towards the end, are pretty long which is why I debated with myself whether I should include this here in my blot tour post. However, when I outlined this supposed separate Book Talk, I realized that I could probably trim it down to its essentials and end up with a not too shamefully long post. And that’s how I justified this section. Anyway.
As some of you might know, I’m a huge nerd for well done story elements, specifically worldbuilding in high fantasy books. It’s no surprise then that I absolutely adored the world of Aeon, a literal broken and cursed place that the residents have no choice but to do whatever it takes to survive. The author said once in a tweet regarding The Never Tilting World‘s geography that it was a challenge to make the world seem full and real despite most of the characters having almost no idea what’s beyond the “safe” zones.
Because most of the areas in Aeon are completely unknown to the central cast, one of the enjoyable parts of the book is learning more about the world as the main characters keep going to the Abyss. Like a living, breathing character itself, the more we spend time getting to know Aeon, the more complex yet consistent it becomes.
To the Abyss! And Other Adventures
The book’s use of a journey plot serves not only so the main characters can get to the main source of conflict but also, interestingly enough, to characterize the world as organically as it can. We see Aeon from two separate and wholly opposite experiences: Odessa and Lan’s journey from night to day and Haidee and Arjun’s journey from day to night. Logistically, the two goddess’ journeys are the complete contrast because of the two girls’ different background. But the more I think about it, how they get to the midpoint of the world, the Abyss where Aeon broke, kind of symbolized the societal structure of Aranth and the Golden City.
Aranth is a city that’s in perpetual darkness. It is a settlement farthest from the sun and it suffers from storms and ice and even malignant creatures of the sea. Naturally, the people of Aranth have to huddle together for warmth and survival. So it makes sense that Aranth, compared the the Golden City, has a more rigid structure where the goddess Asteria and her Devoted have essentially absolute authority. And you know what happens when you give a group of people unbridled power and only a hint of accountability: that’s right, corruption! Aranth’s lowkey shady inner workings is a pretty logical consequence of having a city literally cloaked in eternal darkness. Also, that’s just what happens when you leave things in the cold, damp, and dark – eventually, things are gonna rot and fester.
Conversely, the Golden City suffers constant (and ruthless) daylight so the people who live there tend to be callous and severe. It’s literally survival of the fittest in that part of Aeon and if you just happened to be born outside the comfort of the Golden City, you’re pretty much on your own. Supplies and water are extremely limited so it makes sense that Latona, the goddess who runs the Golden City, would want to reserve as much as possible for a select group of people. The scavengers and nomads and clans outside the Golden City are obviously going to have to fight and steal (and, on occasion, kill) for a chance of living through the day. Unlike in Aranth, there isn’t much focus on the goddess and her Devoted. In fact, outside the city, people despise the goddess and wish her dead. The Golden City may not have as much corrupt leaders as in Aranth but the nobles in the city are privileged elitists who don’t give a damn about outsiders. Latona even goes out of her way to distract the people from the hellfire outside the city boundaries. Really just some major “there is no war in Ba Sing Se” vibes.
The juxtapositions of these two societies really shows us how Aeon molds communities and how the people are powerless against the forces of nature. I mean, this is true in real life as well as in fiction but in a world divided by night and day, where the fabric of society is directly influenced by endless and cruel climate, it’s more obvious than ever. This is also how the book tackles the very real problem of climate change – if the world takes a nosedive, it’s not gonna be the land or the sea that suffers but the people. The world will go on, it will reshape itself to make up for the people’s mistakes, but it’s not gonna cater to the comfort or even existence of the people living in it. We need the world, not the other way around.
Magic in Aeon
Another aspect of Aeon that I want to touch on is the magic system. Rin is pretty adept at creating solid magic systems that give the fantasy world more dimension. The Never Tilting World’s elemental magic is a prime example of this.
Here’s a crash course on the magic system of this book. Basically, magic users in Aeon are born with a “gate,” which is a feature found in the person’s eye (I think?), and if you have a gate, you can channel magic. There are different types of gates, of course. The goddesses have all of them but people typically only have the one. You either have an air gate, fire gate, water gate, earth gate, or an aether gate. What’s interesting about this is that just because you have a gate, therefore the ability to use magic, if you’re not in the right environment, your gate will be dormant. For example, if you have a fire gate and you’re born in Aranth where there’s very little fire patterns (energy), you’re as good as ungated.
This is an interesting feature of the book’s magic system because it further shows us how utterly dependent the people are of their world. The people themselves don’t have magic. They merely have gates where they can funnel magic from their world. It’s quite an intriguing system that also characterizes the people and Aeon itself. I’d deconstruct it further but then I’d be here all day.
If I’ve somehow convinced you to pick up this book, you might be able to win a copy! Shealea and Caffeine Book Tours is giving away a signed ARC of The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco! Take note that this particular giveaway is open to residents of the Philippines.
Check out the other blog posts about The Never Tilting World!
And join us this October 19 (Saturday) for the #CBTTC Twitter chat!
Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.
Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.