All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Titan Books)

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse.

This is a book that has received a lot of advance praise and was brought to my attention thanks to Charlie Jane Anders’ excellent write-ups of pop-culture related stuff on one of my go-to websites, i09. So combined with all the positive feedback that All The Birds in the Sky seemed to be getting there was no way I wasn’t going to miss this fantasy, published by Titan Books, that deals with childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead, who parted ways following mysterious circumstances in Middle School. Could this have been down to the invention of a two-second time machine and the discovery of magical powers? Either way, both are now living in San Francisco and have travelled down different paths. Laurence is an engineering genius trying to stop a catastrophic breakdown whilst Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, a hidden academy for the magically gifted.

The concept is pretty interesting and the clash of science and magic provides an interesting hook for Anders’ novel which blends the ideas together very well indeed. It’s fun, imaginative and entertaining to read, as well as being easy to get through. Various science fiction and fantasy tropes are combined here, with the book managing to feature Laurence as the mad scientist and Patricia as the witch, and we watch as their relationship develops over the course of the novel. But the book thankfully manages to be far more rich and complex than that. Despite using familiar tropes on the surface it manages to feel at the same time incredibly unique and fun, with a strong sense of world-building and character development that doesn’t slow down the pace.

The characters, Patricia and Laurence, are solid and well developed, with their relationship having its ups and downs as we follow them from childhood to adulthood. It’s interesting to track how these characters at the core of the novel overtime as we explore their different paths and how they change.  Anders puts character development over the plot and it really works, with some original, weird ideas that really make things interesting. In novels such as these the villains can often be pushed aside in favour of the character development but Mr. Rose is far from a weak antagonist – initially posing as a guidance counsellor, he is incredibly sinister and just so happens to be convinced that the end of the world lies in Patricia’s and Laurence’s hands.

All The Birds in the Sky is a smart, funny, imaginative and sometimes tragic standalone novel that serves as an excellent novel from Charlie Jane Anders and I really can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. This one is an early contender for one of my favourite novels of 2016, and whilst it may not be everyone’s favourite, it’s certainly something that deserves a look.




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