The Fledging of Az Gabrielson, The Clouded World Series: Book One by Jay Amory

Az Gabrielson is one of the Airborn, a people who, with a stretch and a beat of their eight-foot wings, travel effortlessly around and between their cities, perched high above the clouds amidst a life of ease and airy beauty. Az, however, has no wings, making him a pained and isolated oddity in his glorious world of freedom and flight. Then one day he is selected for a job below the clouds. The system of massive automated elevators, which send up everything the Airborn need to survive, are breaking down—and threatening to take the Airborn society with them. Someone must travel to the Ground to find out what has happened, and Az, with his wingless similarity to the prehistoric Groundlings, seems perfect for the task of hunting for answers beneath the clouds. But in the vast shadows of the cities on the Ground, Az finds more questions than answers when he discovers that the Groundlings worship a dim notion of the Airborn and aspire to be like them. Filling the elevators with tributes to their winged deities, the Groundlings are beginning to think that their way of life is part of a very unnatural order of things.

I had a hard time reading this book. The Fledging of Az Gabrielson is not a bad story. Quite on the contrary it's rather interesting how there are humans turned "angels" (they have wings and their names, confusingly enough, are similar to medieval angelic names. They are however not angels in any religious sense, but merely a result of evolution) living in cities above the clouds, getting their resources from the somewhat post-apocalyptic world below. When the resources stop coming, young man Az, a freak of nature with no wings, is sent to investigate as he will be able to blend in with the ordinary humans. The story has a lot of potential, but I felt the read was very choppy and it took me a long time to connect to the characters.

The characters felt flat to me initially and even as far as halfway through the book I still didn't feel like I knew much about their personalities or motivation. However, things did pick up and looking back, all the characters were fairly well faceted. Very few were completely one-sided. Most had several ongoing issues and were not just completely evil/good.

It has to be mentioned here that the Danish translation of this book is fairly poor. The groundlings are supposed to talk in some sort of rough dialect and where that works brilliantly in written English, in Danish it just doesn't work. We don't have the capacity in my native language to get it across and as such the translator seems to have instead gone for a crude version of Danish and I really had to grit my teeth to read the dialogue. Quite possibly the book is a much better read in its original language.

The last few 150 pages or so saved the book for me. Until then it had been an actual struggle to read, but finally the pace picked up properly and things got interesting and I might even be curious enough now to read the next book in the series.

361 pages / published in 2006
Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2010


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