The second of Chuck Wendig’s dystopian YA keeps the action going, and reveals that a floating city isn’t always the paradise the Heartlanders were led to believe.
Gwennie and her family have been whisked away to a flotilla after winning the Heartland Lottery. Instead of being rich and feted, though, they’ve been separated and forced to worked at difficult, menial jobs. Mucking out stables is better than other alternatives Gwennie had been slated for, but still she doesn’t even know where the rest of her family is. When she has to dress up to attend a party and spies Cael’s sister, why doesn’t Merelda even acknowledge her? It seems the flotilla is a dangerous place to be.
Cael, Lane and Rigo, declared outlaws, have taken off via a raft on rail lines to find the flotilla and bring Gwennie back. There are more dangers in the cornfields than they anticipated, though, and it’s hard to tell friend from foe. When Cael finds himself changing, who can he count on? Will his old friends stick by him?
Back in Boxelder the Empyrean Proctor is stuck trying to clean up the mess they left behind. She enlists Boyland, Wanda, and Rigo’s father into a posse to track down Cael and his friends. What happens when – if – they find their quarry? Whose interests will prevail?
Wendig keeps the pressure bubbling in Blightborn,* the second installment of the Heartland trilogy. It’s not unexpected that the flotillas are subject to political and social pressures, with their own hierarchies, social classes and slums, but it’s handled well. The mechanics of the flotilla and their level of science and technology are not explained in detail, but plenty is given to be believable and for the story to work.
The complications that arise for Cael, Lane and Rigo are new, though the groundwork for them was built into the first of the trilogy, Under the Empyrean Sky. It’s satisfying to see the threads from the first book being woven into this one.
I only have a couple of minor disappointments. The main one is that we still don’t know why the Empyreans took to the sky in the first place. It seems a huge and difficult undertaking not to be explained. We also don’t know why they don’t allow the Heartlanders to grow their own food. In the first book there was a specific mention of destroying fruit trees which remained blackened, so obviously the land wasn’t used for growing corn. I would think it would make sense to keep your manual labour force healthy with cheap food; maybe the ration stuff is cheaper, but it’s not explained.
I was a little disappointed that Cael’s father doesn’t make an appearance in Blightborn, though I can see that to include him in an already complicated narrative would have been difficult and probably lengthened it excessively. Hopefully his story arc will be completed in The Harvest: Heartland 3.
The last thing is that I kept thinking that surely somebody on these flotillas would have a social conscience, that some of the privileged would think it wrong to treat the Heartlanders so harshly. There is one character who has sympathy for Gwennie, but I would have liked a streak running through the flotilla. Just my thoughts.
Blightborn is a good second installment. It keeps the action going as its characters grow and change because of their choices and experiences. The momentum of the trilogy is on track, but at the same time Blightborn completes its own story arc with a decent resolution. There are some questions left that need answering, so I’m looking forward to reading the final book, The Harvest.
Blightborn: The Heartland Trilogy Book 2
by Chuck Wendig
Publication: 14 July 2015
Links: terribleminds - Chuck Wendig’s website