The Skylark’s Song (The Skylark Saga #1) by J.M. Frey
**A HUGE shout out and thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**
I am so thankful for this book, truly. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever read, but it did something for me that I will be forever thankful for. It pulled me out of a most dreadful reading rut; specifically when it came to reading young adult fantasy. I can’t deny that the last few fantasy books I’ve read have not been anything but less than stellar and that has been so heartbreaking for me. I want my fellow authors to succeed, but as a reader I want unbelievably good content as well. While it has its flaws, The Skylark’s Song by J.M. Frey was the hero I needed.
Before diving into the plot I feel like I need to mention that this book has a deep undercurrent of religious strife that plays heavily into the character’s actions and motivations. I wasn’t too thrown off by this, but I can see how others would be. The author wrote this amazing world, that had we gotten a history book that explained the lead up to the war, would have probably been helpful. Perhaps if the religions were ones that were easily known it wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but they were created in the mind of the author and so, to me, the reader needs a little bit more than what was outwardly given. There are tensions and class issues that I felt weren’t fully developed, but deserved to be.
To give you a rundown, there are different kingdoms, the two you really need to pay attention to in this book are Saskwya and Klonn who are duking it out in a religious war. Saskwya wants to keep their religions, which consist of the Polythesim of the lower class Sealies and the Monotheism of the upper class Bennes. Klonn doesn’t have any religions and therefore are basically an atheist society that feels Saskwya should follow suit, so BOOM war time.
GOOD POINT: Even though the world building felt rushed, what little I got I was impressed with. I liked this world and I wanted to see more of it. I feel Frey has laid the ground work for a prequel and I would be overjoyed if she followed through with that thought.
At the heart of this we have our MC, Robin, a mid-flight engineer and Sealie who is promoted to glider pilot despite her class. I thought her character was pretty great as far as female heroines go. She wasn’t trying too hard to be a badass to prove something, she just is a badass. However, I felt we got the bare minimum when it came to her character development as far as her love of flying and being basically the best pilot on the Saskwyan air force. There was a lot of telling and not showing going on as the book glosses over months of her training and taking down enemy ships. I wanted details, I wanted to see her fight and was left disappointed with what little I got.
GOOD POINT: Robin, Robin, Robin! I love her, but I would love her even more with a little more fleshing out.
On the other side of the war is the Klonn warrior called the Coyote who, in Robin’s head, becomes her arch nemesis. Through the quick montage of air fights we learn that the Coyote has been following her in the sky and eventually causes her to start avoiding battles for fear that she will be shot down. Everything comes to a tipping point when the Coyote sends a letter of challenge that is awkwardly called a “love” letter. This was a bit clunky foreshadowing, but I took it in stride.
Robin prepares to face her nemesis along with her own mid-flight engineer and best friend, Al. Al is a fucking jag-off, gosh that feels good to say out loud. He is supposedly written as one of Robin’s love interests, but there really is no contest as he is just plain awful. He is the stereotypical “friend-zoned” guy who tries to guilt trip Robin into kissing him. It is flat gross. What even makes it worse is, Robin has in my opinion made her feelings pretty damn clear up to this point, but still she is willing to have a serious talk with him about it and put this shit to rest once and for all because he is her best friend. However, like a normal person, she wants to wait to discuss it after they’ve flown against the Coyote, because emotions are a bitch in a dangerous situation and girl doesn’t have time for that shit.
Al accepts this until they are literally up in the air waiting for the Coyote to show up and he decides to unbuckle himself from the ship to come up and get right in her face to have this talk. WTF! I hated Al in this moment. Actually no, my hate came way earlier when he bitched about all the things he had done for her and I wanted to scream, “That is your job as her mid-flight you fucking idiot! You’re not special!” By the time he interrupts her as she’s trying to pilot I was indifferent to him and knew that if he died, I wouldn’t care even a little bit.
The Coyote shows up and takes her down because her true arch nemesis, the fellow pilot who hates her guts, has tampered with her glider causing her to lose control of steering. This was something else I could have done without quite honestly. I get we needed to set up the class system between the Bennes and Sealies, but did we really have to do it at the expense of having another story line where two women hate and rag on each other? It wasn’t awful, just disappointing.
Robin’s glider is shot down by the Coyote. She is injured and Al is dead (Sorry, not sorry). She is captured by the Coyote and a fleet of Klonn soldiers. The Coyote is of course much more handsome and gentle up close (Ugh!). It wasn’t insta-love, but it was enough to make me roll my eyes. Robin is taken away like all other mid-flights to work on a super secret project the Klonn have cooked up to end the war for good. The flaw in their plan is that they need an engineer to finish it, hence why the Coyote has been shooting down gliders and capturing mid-flights. The project is essentially a lone, single pilot jet-pack called WINGS.
We learn fairly quickly that the mansion Robin is a prisoner in belongs to the Coyote and in a way he is being held as a prisoner too. We then get a second montage of her fixing/sabotaging WINGS while being flirted/woo’d by the Coyote over dinner and games of chess. It was sad that it went by like a blur of images, but I guess it still worked; again the bare minimum.
I didn’t mind her budding relationship with the Coyote as much as I did Al’s stalker infatuation with her, but it was still creepy at times. The overuse of “My Dear” was too much to handle, to the point I felt my body begin to cringe whenever the Coyote appeared in preparation for it. Author’s, if you want your love interest to not come off sounding like a degrading garbage human don’t have him continue to call your heroine “My Dear” every single time he address her. Plus, repetition is just annoying.
GOOD POINT: I enjoy a good love story, especially a forbidden lovers story and this book sells it fairly well. More than that though, I liked that the love story wasn’t really the forefront of the narrative. It was second to the War story and even Robin’s own character development. I appreciated this.
Despite this and his sometimes overly rough treatment of her “for her safety”, it was a relationship I hoped would work out in the end. I have to admit that he does assist her and when the bet situation comes up he handled it how I hoped he would. Honestly, if that scene had gone the route of sexual assault I would have been thoroughly pissed, so thank you Frey for that.
I will admit that the ending had me shedding a few tears. Not so much for the Coyote, or their relationship, but for Robin herself. She had built up this relationship in her head and fought and railed against it. She used logic to stay grounded and in the end stuck to her ideals over letting her heart take over. But she does allow herself a single moment and it was enough to bring tears. It felt real and it was all Robin’s doing.
I will more than likely be keeping an eye out for the next book in the series. Like I said it wasn’t the greatest, but it was enough and I think that deserves a recommendation and my promise to pick up the next book. Besides, I’d love to see what becomes of Robin and maybe a little bit the Coyote as well.
If you’re into Young Adult, Fantasy, and Steam Punk I’d say this book falls right into where your priorities lie and you should pick it up and give it a shot.
BAD POINT: Not enough fanart!
4.5 Out of 5 Stars
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