Jesse Fisher, a Skyship slacker, and Cassius Stevenson, a young Surface operative, cross paths when they both venture into forbidden territory in pursuit of Pearls. Their chance encounter triggers an unexpected reaction, endowing each boy with remarkable--and dangerous--abilities that their respective governments would stop at nothing to possess.
Enemies thrust together with a common goal, Jesse and Cassius make their way to the ruins of Seattle to uncover the truth about their new powers, the past they didn't know they shared, and a shocking secret about the Pearls.
Released: September 8th 2011 Pages: 376
Publisher: Flux Source: Library
First Look: ***** I'm not sure what exactly drew me to this book. The goggles and the word "skyship" screamed steampunk, though this book isn't even steampunk. (Up close, the goggles look fakey anyway.) Still, I decided to give it a shot.
Setting: ***** I don't understand why the Unified Party and the Skyship people are at odds with each other. It seems that all dystopian novels have to have two battling factions. Pro tip: it is possible to write a dystopian novel without this aspect. Patrick Ness uses this wonderfully in The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men, but in both these cases, it works. Those novels take time to explore the conflicts, rather than just having conflict for the sake of it. They use the warring factions to ask difficult questions of readers: When you only have two choices, who do you fight for? A tyrant or a terrorist? Also, who do you save: the lives of many, or the life of the one person you can't live without? I wouldn't have minded the two factions aspect in The Pearl Wars, except that there was very little worldbuilding, and it felt thrown in just to give something to plot around. Enough information was laid down to establish that these were warring factions, but we weren't ever given a reason why they were fighting. Or a reason to care.
Characters: ***** I have mixed feelings about both main characters, Jesse and Cassisus. Jesse had potential to be a character that felt real, with much for readers to connect with. He had that, to some extent, but for me, his constant complaining prevented me from ever getting close to him, as a character. He spends most of the first half of the book feeling sorry for himself because he's the worst trainee Skyship has. But he never did anything about it. If he really wanted to stop being the worst and stop being picked on for it, why didn't he work harder? Talk to his teachers and get extra help? Train for the paintball-type game on his own?
Cassius was more interesting, for me. I'm not sure why, exactly. This could be just my imagination, but I think he got less point of view chapters in the second half of the book, and Jesse's point of view took over the story. Again, I could just be making this up, but it seemed like his storyline dropped out as soon as he crossed paths with Jesse. I wish I could've gotten to know Cassius better--he seemed like an interesting character, and probably will develop throughout the rest of the trilogy.
Plot: ***** The beginning was exciting. Then it slowed down for 150 pages or so. It finally picked back up, but by that time, it was too late to save this book from a three-star rating. There was a snippet of action at the beginning, and it caught my attention, but then it turned into a long segment of Jesse's complaining, eavesdropping, and other less-exciting things. Why is it that whenever a character randomly eavesdrops on a conversation just for the sake of it, that conversation always just so happens to be about him? The plot picked back up at the end, in terms of things actually happening, but I wish it wouldn't have taken so long to get there.
Uniqueness: ***** The aspect of the Pearls was unique. Other than that, this book contained many too-familiar tropes of standard-issue dystopian novels.
Writing: ***** The thing that annoyed me was the awkward point of view switches. Jesse's point of view chapters were written in first person, present tense. Cassius' were in third person, past tense. This meant that, at the beginning of every chapter, it took me a few paragraphs to readjust to the switch. It didn't make sense to me--why make one person's point of view one way, and the other character's point of view different? It wasn't consistent. And anyway, present tense tends to get on my nerves. Other than that, I had no other major issues with the writing.
Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above.
Overall: This was an okay book. The setting wasn't explained fully. Jesse spent too much time complaining, but other than that, he and Cassius were decent main characters. The plot was exciting at the beginning, slowed down for too long, then picked back up at the very end. The switches every chapter or so between first person present and third person past tense were annoying. Overall, though, it was a decent book. It's more on the high side of three stars, for me, but not quite enough for me to bump up the rating.
Similar Books: The dystopian setting and dual point of view remind me of Proxy and Legend. It also has a little bit of an Airborn vibe to it.