'Twas not for me - thoughts on Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon

Title: Take Back the Skies
Series: Tellus #1
Author: Lucy Saxon
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk, Fantasy
Publication: May 28th 2014, Bloomsbury
Pages: 378, Paperback
Source: Library
Rating: 2.5/5 cupcakes

Catherine Hunter is the daughter of a senior government official on the island of Anglya. She’s one of the privileged – she has luxurious clothes, plenty to eat, and is protected from the Collections which have ravaged families throughout the land. But Catherine longs to escape the confines of her life, before her dad can marry her off to a government brat and trap her forever. So Catherine becomes Cat, pretends to be a kid escaping the Collections, and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. As they leave Anglya behind and brave the storms that fill the skies around the islands of Tellus, Cat’s world becomes more turbulent than she could ever have imagined, and dangerous secrets unravel her old life once and for all.
Well, that was interesting. I’m pretty sure I spent 85% of this book rolling my eyes and doing this:

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I was reading this whilst volunteering at the library and I sincerely hope nobody saw the dumbfounded facial expressions and eye rolling that occurred. Because it happened on way more than one occasion.

HOWEVER, despite that, I still felt compelled to read this. After the 100 pages mark the pace sped up, the stakes were higher and I couldn’t stop reading. SO?? It’s one of those awkward books that I didn’t particularly like but I did enjoy. That sounds contradictory (because it is) but that’s how I felt.

Take Back the Skies centers around Catherine Hunter, the 14-year-old daughter of a government official who feels stifled by the political prison that she's trapped in and having to share her house with her tyrannical father doesn't make it any easier. One day she manages to escape and stows aboard a sky ship, disguising herself as a boy in order to be viewed as useful and thus not get kicked out. Finding a family and being able to work on mechanics, Cat, as she now calls herself, finally feels at home. However, cruel and devastating news reaches their ears that the children the government have been collecting aren't been used for the purposes that have been told to the public. Deceit and lies pervade every inch of the government with brutality at its core. Cat is determined to obliterate the lies that have been fed to her and the public. Cat will need all her strength and courage as she faces a terrible enemy. Blood will be shed and tears will fall in the endeavor to bring the brutal government to its knees.

So, I liked the concept (THERE WERE SKY SHIPS?! That's a new level of awesome). And the cover is super pretty too (stop being so superficial geeeez). I have mad respect for the author who wrote this at sixteen. When I was sixteen I was drooling over Shawn Mendes (not much has changed on that front - aiii) and trying to write a book. I'd like to give the author's more recent books a try, as it'll be interesting to see how she's progressed as an author. I really liked the concept, and I love the idea for the series: all 6 books are set in a different part of the world Saxon has created. That's awesome. I love it when a series explores the world it's set in in-depth. I liked the concept and the plot. It was a steampunk dystopian adventure with a dark, chilling undertone - and don't we all love reading about fierce girls running away and disguising themselves as boys as they attempt to bring down a government? I enjoyed how fast-paced it got towards the end and the break-neck speed it started moving at compelled me to keep reading.

I also liked the banter and the dynamics between the crew on the ship Cat had stowed away on. There were quick fire one-liners and wit that made me giggle. However, the majority of the dialogue I felt was very stilted and immature. It didn't read naturally and it kind of pulled me out of the story because of that. I liked the characters aboard the ship. Harry, Matt, Alice and Ben were all really lovely characters, but they never felt fully fleshed out to me, I guess. They were nice but not particularly memorable. 

Then there were Fox and Cat, the protagonists, and...😑. There were elements of Cat's personality that I liked. She's sassy, brave and adventurous. BUT...she's SO CHILDISH, which makes sense, seeing as she's 14. If I had to read about me at 14 I'd probably want to smack my head against a wall too. She just got so offended by everything and yelled and stormed off a lot, which I can actually understand. If I had to spend that much time with Fox, I probably would've jumped ship (literally).

That leads me to Fox.

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Fox was the love interest, but literally 99% of the time I wanted to smack some sense into him (which Cat did, twice. I'm as violent a bunny, but even I would've been tempted). Fox has a tragic back story that's never spoken about which apparently gives him an excuse to be a complete idiot pretty much all of the book. Then when his past is spoken about, it's covered in a few sentences leaving me with ZERO EMOTIONS. I am a very emotional person. I laugh and smile a lot and I also cry at cute things and sad things and EVERYTHING, BASICALLY. BUT IN THIS? NOT A TEAR WAS SHED. I showed pretty much no emotion during this book (except exasperation and giggle here and there). The one thing that might have helped me understand him a bit more and not be SO UTTERLY INFURIATED BY HIM was completely glossed over??

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Same, Kanye, same.

Fox is seventeen or eighteen but he acts like a five year old. Pretty much all his scenes in the book consisted of him:

1. Belittling Cat
2. Infuriating Cat
3. Starting arguments
4. Throwing a tantrum
5. Storming off

HE IS AN ACTUAL FIVE YEAR OLD. Or like a very moody, bratty fourteen year old. There was no way an 18-year-old guy would act so petulant in real life. Him and Cat were constantly squabbling, because he was either rude or sullen. Honestly one of the most annoying characters I've ever encountered. 

Then there was the romance...

There was a love triangle. Not a proper one, because Fox and Cat were clearly "in love", so the other guy didn't stand a chance. However, I still had to suffer through Fox and other guy (I won't give his name because spoileeerrrsss) picking on each other and Cat being like "oh staaahp fighting over meee". The girl had a point. They were basically on a suicide mission, yet Fox and other guy were about to get into a fight over her. 😤 Then there's the romance between Fox and Cat...I couldn't deal. For the first 200+ pages they're arguing and fighting constantly (and not in the way where it's like "ooh they have so much chemistry this hate-to-love relationship trope is the boooommbbb") and then suddenly Cat is declaring she'll always love him and he's the love of her life?? Dude, you've just turned 15, stay in yo lane. It was honestly so unevenly written. There was no smooth transition from the hating each other to the liking each other. ALSO, I'm pretty sure Cat only liked him because he was hot, which at first was understandable. However, he was so petty so much of the time I don't know how she liked him after being with him for several days. It was beyond me. 

The writing also felt very amateurish and there were certain phrases and certain scenes that had me wondering if this was some kind of caricature/satirical narrative of villains who were written in a way that made them unintentionally comical instead of scary? There's this one instance where Cat is trapped with the bad guy and she starts unveiling her whole plan to him, and I'm like STOP TALKING?! ARE YOU MAD?! He could escape and literally foil your plans - WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? And also, there whole plan to bring the government down was planned in two days. ARE YOU SERIOUSLY TELLING ME IT'S THAT EASY TO BRING DOWN A GOVERNMENT?! What about all the planning and preparation? What about security cameras?! They have robots in their houses, surely they had security cameras installed in the government officials' houses. Besides that, the confrontation was so ugh. This quote...I cringed. 

"You little brat!" he growled. She stood her ground, chin jutting out defiantly. "You won't get away with this, Catherine. You or your little friend."
Is it just me who felt like that was almost satire of a villain/hero confrontation? I just...no.

Then there was the ending. It was unexpected. I wasn't expecting the author to be so brutal with her characters, so props to her for that. However, I didn't really care all that much. I cared a little bit, but because I didn't really connect to any of the characters that much, I felt quite detached from the ending. Maybe because it also happened so quickly. You know in books where a BIG THING happens, but the characters' reactions and the events that follow just happen at a rapid pace that it feels completely unrealistic and like everything is glossed over thus producing a completely dulled down version of what should have been a Very Emotional and Tragic affair? That's what happened here!

I reaaaallllyyyy wanted to like this book. I loved the concept and the cover, and I went to a literature festival where the author was on a panel and she seems SO NICE, so I really wanted to love this...but I didn't. The characters, writing, plot and romance were unrealistic and frustrating, and there were too many things that I didn't click with that prevented me from liking this book. That being said, it did get super fast-paced towards the end and I flew through it after the 100 page mark. This is a 6 book series and maybe I'll pick up the later books, as I'm sure the author has improved upon writing this. But then again I probably won't because I didn't like this very much at all.

I give it: 2.5/5 cupcakes