REVIEW: Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars by Nick James

107. Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars by Nick James
Publication: Flux (September 8, 2011), Paperback ARC, ~300pp / ISBN 073872341X
Genre: YA Sci-fi

Read: September 1-3, 2011
Source: BEA 2011

Summary from Amazon:

A devastated Earth’s last hope is found in Pearls: small, mysterious orbs that fall from space and are capable of supplying enough energy to power entire cities. Battling to control the Pearls are the Skyship dwellers—political dissidents who live in massive ships in the Earth’s stratosphere—and the corrupt Surface government.

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.


In one of my Thursday Tea posts I mentioned that I was worried this book was going in a direction that a) had been done many, many times before and b) I could see from a mile away. And that direction? Yeah, I was totally right. To be fair, it had a kind of twist to it that I wasn’t expecting, and that made things a bit more interesting. But on the whole this first Skyship Academy book was way more lackluster than I expected it to be.

The author

Sure, it had its high points. There are plenty of female characters in here, and they do more than just stand around and let the dudes do all the action-y stuff. The world setting was pretty cool, with its bubble-encased cities and floating-in-the-sky cities. And the baddie was a woman! And she was scary! Yay!

I also thought it was nice that the “bad” protagonist actually had, like, layers and character flaws and stuff. And Jesse, though annoying and kind of boring, actually seemed to be on his way to becoming a character I’d enjoy reading about.

However, almost everything else was just so…bleh. I think– and this is something I don’t like saying– but I think it was the writing. Fantastic writing can bring any sort of boring trope back into life, but mediocre writing just makes it flop all the more. It’s not terrible writing (I’ve definitely read worse), but it’s kind of obvious that this is NJ’s first major published work and that he hasn’t figured out how to bring any spark to his writing yet. Everything felt kind of lifeless and flat, even during the fight scenes/chase scenes/emotional scenes/etc. (Also, the lazy “futuristic” slang irritated me. That’s kind of separate from everything else, though.)

The best writing, in my opinion, happened during Cassius’ scenes. I don’t know if I feel that way because I like Cassius’ story more (it’s unusual!) or if NJ is just better at writing in third person (Jesse’s sections are in first person), but those sections were closer to sparking than the other ones.

So: is The Pearl Wars a bad book? No. If I’d hated it I would have stopped reading! But it also isn’t really anything I’d try to push on my friends because it was just that good. You know what I mean?


It was okay.


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Other reviews

Books, Sweets and Other Treats: “The book starts off with a bang and left me with a lot of questions after one chapter. I enjoyed piecing together the information and seeing how my ideas compared with what actually happened. There were twists that I didn’t see coming, a few that skimmed my brain as I was reading, but overall I was pleasantly surprised.”

Emily’s Reading Room: “The writing isn’t flawless, and there are a few rough spots where dialogue seems cheesy, or I would have preferred to have had a little more subtlety rather than being told exactly what was going on. However, I think that overall the book was incredibly solid and will be a great book to give kids that are into science fiction.”

Sniffly Kitty’s Mostly Books: “The premise was intriguing while the world-building was decent though not spectacular, but what I have perceived as weak characterization is perhaps a big part of why the revelations felt less poignant.”


Argh, I hate not liking a book when the author is so nice! It’s even worse than not liking a book that everyone else does like. Sigh.


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