Skyward Inn, within the high walls of the Western Protectorate, is a place of safety, where people come together to tell stories of the time before the war with Qita. But safety from what?
Qita surrendered without complaint when Earth invaded; Innkeepers Jem and Isley, veterans from either side, have regrets but few scars. Their peace is disturbed when a visitor known to Isley comes to the Inn asking for help, bringing reminders of an unnerving past and triggering an uncertain future.
Did humanity really win the war?
A thoughtful, literary novel about conflict, identity and community; a fresh new perspective in speculative fiction from critically-acclaimed writer Aliya Whiteley. Jamaica Inn by way of Jeff Vandermeer, Ursula Le Guin, Angela Carter and Michel Faber, Skyward Inn is a beautiful story of belonging, identity and regret.
Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley is a really trippy science fiction novel about the aftermath of a war on another planet, called Qita. The Inn serves as a gathering place for residents: a place where they can imbibe and connect with others; that is, until a new face disturbs the peace.
I have to say, Skyward Inn is one of the trippiest books I have ever read. I may just be dense, but I was probably halfway through the book before I realized where the story was heading. And I am not complaining about that fact, as I attribute it to Whiteley’s phenomenal writing that the author was able to keep me in the dark for so long. I do not want to say too much about the plot, because it is something you want to EXPERIENCE. I just really loved the writing style. Even when I was not sure about the narrative track, I was still engaged with the plot. It is really atmospheric, as one might expect a story about an inn on another planet to be. The author sets the stage by using very moody language that is really tonal. The way the story unfolds slowly, deliberately grabbing ahold of the reader piece by piece is a phenomenal approach. I really appreciated the measured manner in which the book was written.
Weirdly, the individual characters were not very important to me. And I am okay with that, for the most part. Due to the way the plot develops, I think that was purposeful on the part of the author, at least later in the book. The beginning does rely on Jem to carry the load a little, which I did not think was all that successful. There is a lot of talk about her relationship with Isley, but it is really unclear what happened and why that is important for a long time. So, focusing on this in the beginning was not really impactful for me, as a reader; and, to be honest, it did not matter to me in the end. Again, I am not sure if this is purposeful or not on the author’s part. If Whiteley was trying to unfold relationships the way the author did the plot, I would say it was a miss. If the plan was always to have the characters be secondary to the narrative, then I tip my hat to the author. I like to think it was the latter, because that is how I experienced the book. Others may not feel the same.
In the end, I really enjoyed reading Skyward Inn. Its slow-paced story that gently revealed itself may seem underwhelming at first, but the direction of of the plot took the narrative to a surprising and satisfying place. This book is not for everyone, though. If you are looking for a book that does not fit into any tropes or boxes and are willing to keep an open mind, I recommend it.