All The Birds in the Sky
By Charlie Jane Anders
Ah, a fantasy set in the real world. Been a while since I read a work of low fantasy, and All the Birds in the Sky is a wonderful, whimsical, original take on the genre. The thing that really makes this book stand out is its dialog with Science Fiction. This is the first time I’ve come across a story with magic and talking animals, that also included time machines and AI as equally important elements. After this, I’d love to read more.
The story centres around Patricia; a witch, and Laurence; a ‘mad’ scientist. We see them discover their talents, and be outcasts because of them. We follow them through high school, where they are drawn together despite their differences.
Patricia and Laurence’s time together in high school really spoke to me. Being different, holding out for a clique that you fit into, looking for people that understood you… all part of my high school experience, and probably that of other people as well. Despite some of the serious bullying they go through, the book still manages to pack in some whimsical humour here and there.
After high school there is a time skip, and that is when the main story starts. Here things become more serious, and the stakes are raised. Not that the high school stuff was boring. No, there was definitely a good plot there too, and it plays out very well.
All the Birds in the Sky is a good mix of fantasy, science fiction, romance and humour. It is a fun, interesting read, but it isn’t perfect. Anders is good at building up anticipation, but a lot of the reveals don’t pack as much punch as they should. I also feel like she wasted a perfectly good character in Theodolphus Rose. A magical assassin who is the major antagonist for the high school part of the novel, and also the source of some of the funniest parts of the book. After being so important in the first part of the book, after the time skip he just pops up occasionally to provide hints about what’s to come. I would have liked to see him take a more active role here.
Despite these flaws, I’d still highly recommend this book. It’s an interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction. The characters are all very much alive and loveable, and the plot is deeply engrossing. I suppose if you like your science fiction very hard, you may find All the Birds in the Sky lacking. It definitely leans more to the fantasy side than the SF side. Despite my preference for hardish science fiction though, I still found this book to be a lot of fun.
It’s not often that you’ll find talking birds and wrist-watch time machines in one book. If you want a fun, unique, somewhat quirky ride, go buy yourself a copy of this book.