This hefty sci-fi novel features dangerous treks, tortured relationships, and hidden histories.
Debut novelist Latshaw creates a split world, with the Kith (remnants of the Apriori, i.e., humans) literally at the top—in this case, atop a mountain—and down below, past the Cloudline, the beastly, much feared Croathus, aka the Threatbelow. Centuries before, the Kith fled for their lives from the Croathus and sought safety on Mountaintop, where the Croathus cannot live due to the thin air. But it is a pinched existence, and now the Kith’s water supply, which originates down below, is being poisoned. A few characters push the story forward, including Tranton, the evil and ambitious Kith counselor; Icelyn Brathius, the young heroine who carries most of the story; Adorane, her childhood friend; and Eveshone, her beautiful Croathus ally. Icelyn, Adorane, and a small band go below to stop the poisoning and save the Kith. But only Icelyn, Adorane, and a few others make it through Cloudline alive, and things get much worse as the heroes push further. A small band of the Croathus is loyal to these Apriori, but thousands more are sworn enemies, and the Croathus are incredible killing machines. Revelations come thick and fast, and it turns out that the Kith are far from the innocent victims that they seemed. Eventually, the return to Mountaintop does not go well, though it does set the stage for a sequel. The characters—especially Icelyn—are well-drawn, as are their tortuous relationships. This isn’t just about saving the world—it’s about a teenager coming to know herself, a task almost as daunting. Serious ideas about morality and even godhood are grist for the mill. On the other hand, passages involving a teacher named Belubus and a hokey interlude in the Mines are dead ends that could have been discarded. And a few questions remain: why did it take so long for the Croathus to poison the water supply? Did Tranton have something to do with it?
A promising debut that could find success beyond the YA market.