And the second book of The Heartland Trilogy is now out in the world.
Your procurement options are:
It is also available on Kindle Unlimited (which you can try for free).
What’s It About?
This is the second book in my YA Heartland trilogy: a cornpunk agripocalyptic dust-topia where a handful of teens from the earthbound Heartland decide to take the fight to the rich masters who float above their heads in grand island cities called flotillas.
For folks who like: Star Wars, Bioshock, John Steinbeck, the Hunger Games.
The first book is Under the Empyrean Sky, which you can check out here. A Tumblr user (aka a “Tumbrian citizen”) took a book selfie with the first one and said of that book: “This book has corn, corn pirates, the war against bloodthirsty corn, corn people, family tension, runaways, arranged marriages, PoC, and a gay character whose personality isn’t based solely on his being gay, and I have never been more proud of taking a selfie with a book.” I am very happy about this. (Though I’m now seeing the Tumblr user is deactivated, which also makes me sad? Hm.)
The second book seriously ups the ante. More characters. More POVs. (More female POVs, too, if that’s the sort of thing you care about.) We leave the corn and get to see what goes on in the skies. And we also get glimpses of a much larger world. (Incidentally, the book is almost twice as big as the first one in terms of actual word count. I like big books and I cannot lie.)
The official description is:
He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged.
Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move — one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life.
The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted?
They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.
Chuck Wendig’s riveting sequel to Under the Empyrean Sky plunges readers into an unsettling world of inequality and destruction, and fleshes out a cast of ragtag characters all fighting for survival and, ultimately, change.
Why Check It Out?
Because you like adventure and twists and turns and evil corn and floating rich people and pirates and mutants and robots and Pegasuses and robot Pegasuses.
Because you care about issues like genetic engineering, agriculture, class warfare, wealth disparity, global warming, and Pegasuses. (What? I’m pretty sure Pegasuses are a proble. A pest animal, like whitetail deer or rats, right?)
Because you buying my books is how I get to keep writing this blog.
Because it’s a book for teens and adults. And Pegasuses.
Because I’m really proud of it. No, seriously, I’m very happy with it.
Because, dang, the e-book is not even four bucks, and the KU free trial lets you read it free.
Because, no, seriously, this book has a Pegasus. More than one, actually.
(Even if you don’t check out the book, I’d sure appreciate you spreading the word.)
What Are People Saying?
Who, precisely, is the hero of the story is another question, and one that I’m not sure I can answer. Is it Gwennie, who won the Lottery to escape the Heartland, found that all it meant was more drudgery, and decided to do something about it? Is it Cael, desperate to rescue his beloved Gwennie and his runaway sister Merelda from the Empyrean, all the while fighting a curse of his own? They, and several other characters, all get a chance to narrate, and while this could seem clumsy in the hands of a less experienced writer, Wendig keeps all the perspectives distinct and the pace brisk. One thing that I particularly like is that even his minor characters all have heroic qualities – we have Merelda, who makes her dreams reality but finds them hollow; Lane, who wrestles with homophobia and the clay feet of his idols; Rigo, who loses his leg but finds his strength; Davies, whose daughter is worth more than his revenge; Balastair, whose past is full of secrets and whose present is a seemingly-impenetrable wall of frustration; even Boyland and Proctor Agrasanto (reminded me of Monsanto, which is probably a coincidence…), whose antagonistic natures contain seeds of loyalty, devotion, and self-sacrifice. Every one of them has a character arc I’d be willing to spend a whole novel following.
Something that stood out for me about this book as I read it is Wendig’s treatment of his younger characters. There is no talking down here, no weird older author’s take on teens. This is an author who understands the way a seventeen year old thinks, and tells it like it is. Wendig’s respect for his subjects is clear. There is no annoying whining here, like I’ve noticed in several other YA books I’ve read. These are characters who teens can be proud of, who they can sympathize with. Sure, they have their rough moments, but they take action. They make mistakes, but they learn.
Blightborn is a heftier, more serious work than its predecessor, and Wendig is clearly crafting an epic trilogy of terrific scope with this series. It’s also quite a bit darker, which is pretty common in middle entries – the stakes are higher and the threats more formidable. The Initiative, which is teased a bit before finally being revealed in the book’s third act, is a horrifying manipulation that perfectly illustrates the evil and grandiose ego of the Empyrean rulers, and their sense of entitlement. Wendig has also planted a good number of compelling seeds that will bear beautiful fruit come book three. I’d expect the conclusion of this story to release next year, but damn if that’s not going to be a long, brutal wait. Alas, that’s life in the heartland.
Wendig wields his third person narrative like a Kung Fu Master of Words. He doesn’t just put one action in front of another, trudging on through the scene from beginning to end. He gives you a 360 degree view, pulls the characters off the page and makes them tap-dance on your brain.
His action scenes are like watching a movie who’s director shot it from four cameras and spliced it together after the fact to make a homogenous scene. The action builds and builds in one character’s perspective and them BAM right when you want–NEED–to see what happens with that character he shifts gears to another characters. Sometimes picking right up where the last left off, sometimes a few moments prior, but the action doesn’t stop. It flows, seamlessly.
As usual, Wendig’s writing skills are top-notch. He’s one of the few authors I’ve read that really understands rhythm in prose writing—he knows when to hit the beats, and he knows when to pause. It’s the kind of writing you want someone to read out loud to you.
Blightborn picks up where Under the Empyrean Sky left off. Cael and his pals are on the run. Gwennie is on the flotilla and sees Cael’s sister. Rigo’s father, Wanda, and Boyland Barnes Jr. are part of a posse looking for Cael and his pals. Things quickly spiral out of control from there.
I don’t want to give away too many of the nuts and bolts of the plot or reveal too much of what happened in the last book. I will say that all the threads of the plot advance quite a bit. The new characters of The Sleeping Dogs, the peregrine, Harrington, Eben, and the Maize Witch are all pretty compelling. Not one of the characters emerged unscathed. Who would have thought Cael’s father was so interesting back in the day?