Nadya Skylung, an orphan, was rescued by the cloudship Orion’s captain, Nic, as were the other orphans who are in the crew: Tam, Tian Li, Pepper, and Salyeh.
In the cloudship’s garden, Nadya helps fellow skylung Mrs. Trachia take care of the special plants and animals that help keep the vessel aloft. As the book opens, Nadya hopes to be named first mate. Then the worst happens: Pirates attack the Orion. They are looking for skylungs, and Nadya fears they are looking for her. The action’s both nonstop and circular: The adults sacrifice themselves so that the children can escape, and then the children execute a daring rescue to save them. Nadya gets some but not all of her questions answered, leaving room for a sequel. The built world is complicated, with elaborate biological mechanisms that power the cloudship and humans with special properties to run it. With geography and naming conventions vaguely analogous to our own, Seymour constructs a racially diverse cast around Nadya, who presents white. The language he uses to describe his characters of color is sometimes poorly chosen: Tian Li is rather opaquely described as having “sandstone-colored skin,” and, worse, Salyeh is described as having skin “the dark brown of burning paper.”
While the worldbuilding can be heavy-handed and confusing at times, readers who love action-adventure stories will enjoy reading about Nadya and her friends. (Fantasy. 8-12)