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A Wrinkle in Time meets The Princess Bride
"Though reminiscent of beloved fantasies -- think A Wrinkle in Time meets The Princess Bride -- Above the Star is a magical rendition of a wholly creative tale. Chute imagines unheard of lands, mythical characters, and irresistible folklore, weaving all the magic together with what we know to be true: everyone is searching for something. Her sympathy for the characters--both human and not--is palpable, leaving even the most despicable anti-heroes with room for redemption. And while the story is relentless in its conflict, there are enough moments of tenderness to keep the reader from being overwhelmed. Above the Star is as fanciful as it is grounded, and as gritty as it is fantastic. Chute‘s visual, visceral storytelling will pull you into a reality you never saw coming and a world you’ll be sad to leave behind."
Book Reviews of Above the Star
In this launch of Chute’s (Expecting Sunshine, 2017) fantasy trilogy, a family travels to a bizarre and dangerous parallel
Fourteen-year-old Ella Wellsley was only 10 when doctors found a brain tumor at the base of her skull. Six months ago, the growing tumor rendered her incapable of speech. Now, her grandfather Archie has brought Ella and her mom, Tessa, on a vacation cruise through Spain’s Canary Islands. Tessa is still angry at Ella’s father, Arden, who packed some belongings and disappeared two years ago. It turns out that Archie has a hidden agenda with this trip: He hopes to find both his son and a cure for Ella by using information in Arden’s notebooks. Archie tries to make a deal with a yellow-eyed, untrustworthy being named Zeno, but it doesn’t go as expected, and the entire cruise ship is sent through a portal to the magical island of Jarr-Wya. The quest for Ella’s cure temporarily takes a back seat as the Wellsleys and others get mixed up in a conflict between the sandlike Millia; the red, sometimes-fiery Olearon; and the Bangols, who’d banished Zeno, one of their own, to Earth. When the Bangols take Ella captive, Tessa and Archie summon their strength—and a few allies—to bring her home. The characters in Chute’s story exhibit as many virtues as they do flaws; even Tessa and Archie are occasionally selfish despite their noble intentions. This precipitates numerous plot turns as characters surprise one another with a good deed or a sinister turn. Ella provides the voice of the novel with her periodic first-person perspective, and her varying forms of communication—miming, drawing in a sketchbook—make her the most memorable character. Chute details the beauty of Jarr-Wya as well as grotesque moments; at one point, film from Tessa’s eyes “wriggles on her fingers like hyper slugs.” The author’s literary proficiency is complemented by her illustrations. Although the images are supposed to be Ella’s crude ink paintings, their solid shading gives them vibrancy, even in black and white.
A twisty tale with an otherworldly setting that readers will happily revisit.
January this year I had the fantastic opportunity to take part in the cover revealof Alexis Marie Chute’s debut novel Above the Star. It was such a fun project to be a part of and I really enjoyed being able to use my creativity to help promote the novel. After the reveal took place, I was given the chance to receive an ARC in exchange for a review and, completely selfishly, I accepted. Of course, I still wanted to help make the book a success if I possibly could but, really, I just wanted to read it. Having regurgitated the plot summary so many times I’d become desperate to find out what would happen. So as soon as my copy arrived in the post I pushed aside the book I was currently reading and started it there and then. For the first in a long while, I found myself undeniably immersed and invested in a novel. I’ve been finding it difficult to read lately but this was something I couldn’t wait to dive into. It was such a revelation and I think I’m totally hooked at this point.
“For the first in a long while, I found myself undeniably immersed and invested in a novel.”
Above the Star is a story told by three voices: Ella, a teenage girl who has found herself unable to speak thanks to her brain tumor; Tessa, Ella’s mother who is struggling to cope after her husband abandoned her and her daughter; and Archie, Tessa’s grandfather who is desperate to bring together his fractured family. Shortly after his son’s disappearance, Archie discovers his notebooks that give details of a strange world that is linked to our own. They tell tales of a possible cure for Ella’s illness so Archie makes the decision to journey there himself in the hopes of finding the cure and possibly his son. An unfortunate series of events sees all three members of the family transported along with the entire cruise ship they are travelling on. The group must adapt to the confusing and dangerous island of Jarr-Wya, which is currently in the middle of a very turbulent time. The island’s natives are currently on the verge of war thanks to the mysterious star that fell into the sea. Can Archie, Tessa, and Ella survive long enough to discover her cure?
As soon as I read the summary for Above the Star I knew I wanted to read it. It gave me ideas of Neil Gaiman, The Princess Bride, and plenty of other great fantasy tales. I loved the idea of the triple perspectives of the different generations and was fascinated by Jarr-Wya. So, when I was give the chance to read the book I leapt at it. And I’ve never been happier about anything. The book was utterly captivating from the first page onwards. The characters are well written and feel natural. They are presented realistically and all have obvious, humans flaws. Basically, they’re all recognisable as people you will have experienced in real life. The relationships between the three main characters are all wonderfully realised and they provide some great moments of emotion in the middle of the all the epic fantasy. As much as this book is about magic and strange creatures, it is the tale of a family united through a difficult time. It the story of love and how far someone will go to protect the people that mean the most to them.
“I’ve never been happier about anything. The book was utterly captivating from the first page onwards.”
But that’s not to say the fantasy side of it doesn’t stand up. The way that writer, Alexis Marie Chute, describes the lands of Jarr-Wya is incredible. The passages of description are so vivid and artistic that it’s so easy to transport yourself there. The writing is lush and captivating but not in that Tolkien way where it becomes a bit much. There is plenty of fun and silliness at work here to ensure everything stays well-balanced. As I’ve already mentioned, there are shades of Neil Gaiman here and Chute is hardly afraid to put her characters in jeopardy. This is a dark tale that skirts the edge of terror but is clever enough to never let its readers fall too far into the abyss. It’s clever and addictive storytelling.
“It’s clever and addictive storytelling.”
Storytelling that is aided by Chute’s own artistic talents. As Ella is unable to speak she must find ways to communicate with her the people she meets. She is a talented artist and, in some instances, is able to bridge the gap using her drawings. Along with the passages of Ella’s narration there are a handful of illustrations. These little details are what really bring the book to life and make it almost impossible not to fully immerse yourself into life on Jarr-Wya. As much as I loved the writing in this book there was a little part of me that just wanted more of these images. They elevate the story to a greater level.
I have to admit, as excited as I was to read this novel I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. There was every chance that this could have just been another clichéd fantasy novel that is essentially a watered-down version of Lord of the Rings or something. Fantasy, so much more than other genres, has the potentially to be handled so badly. Thankfully, Above the Star manages to make something magical out of it. It feels fresh and new. I’m always dubious when a book describes itself as being unputdownable or something but I genuinely couldn’t wait to read it. I was totally invested in this story and it’s all down to Chute’s writing. It’s accessible but so full of detail. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trilogy has in store.
“It feels fresh and new… I was totally invested in this story and it’s all down to Chute’s writing. It’s accessible but so full of detail. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trilogy has in store.”
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