This book is a first for the author, who is known by her short stories, according to the book blurb. This tale, is one of redemption in a postapocalyptic world set far, far in the future, of, I would guess, Earth, since there are familiar species of birds. But it’s the juxtaposition of the familiar birds with the strange that makes it so compelling.
Humans live in towers of living bone, the higher in the tower, the higher your social status, and as the towers grow, the lower levels are abandoned, since they get more crowded by the growth of the bone. Travel between the towers is allowed, and is accomplished by flying with one’s own set of wings, which one is tested for at a certain, young age. Travel inside the towers is accomplished by ladders. But the outcasts of the culture are also left in the lower levels of the tower to live or die. It is a very rule orientated way of living, where the main character, Kirit, longs to be a trader, like her mother, attain the right to fly to other towers and trade and also bring medicine. She is close to earning the right to fly free, as well as earn her apprenticeship as the story opens, when she and her once closest friend Nat, break the Tabu/Law, she goes outside during an attack, and he doesn’t let her back in. So they are equally at fault, and get caught by one of their officers, called a Singer. But in being caught outside, Kirit displays a unique skill that the Singers need. But the skill gets in the way of her dreams.
In another story, she might have simply gone with the authority figure, but not this one. She and Nat both work to get through their punishment in time for both to take their flight tests. To get done in time they meet and receive help from one of the cast off citizens of the towers, Tobiat, old, with injuries badly set and healed, and mind a little scattered. He turns out to be key to many of the mysteries come to face. The tests seem to be passed, but the Singers have skewed them, and both Kirit has to go with them to their tower. She learns secrets that turn many of the things she’s learned in the towers inside out, and finds that the strange creatures that attack their towers were once much different. Not only does so much she has learned about her family change, but also about her culture.
So much happens in such a short pace of time. But it changes so many lives of this small civilization on the edge of survival. The disruption spreads from one life, to a family, to an order keeping service type organization. It’s interesting to see, after reading the book, how the character of one actor, can serve as a catalyst to expose the wrongdoing of an entire organization.