The Pearl Wars
by Nick James
Flux, 2011

The Pearl Wars is a young adult science fantasy novel, and is the first in the Skyship Academy series.

Jesse Fisher is an orphan raised on a Skyship -- a floating city -- but this not an ordinary Skyship. While it is disguised as a boarding school, it is actually a training camp for agents who will illegally hunt for pearls on the Earth's surface. The pearls are a bit of a mystery, but are essentially small balls containing insane amounts of energy that regularly fall from space onto the remains of Earth.

Cassius Stevenson is Jesse's exact opposite and Earth-bound counterpart. He is being raised in a government facility dedicated to collecting the pearls and making sure that the sky folk don't steal them -- a critical task, as the Earth is still suffering from the results of a series of mysterious terrorist attacks that took place about 20 years ago, the resulting atomic war, and widespread ecological collapse. The energy from the pearls is the only thing keeping the temperature-controlled cities livable.

Cassius catches Jesse on a training mission, and confiscates his pearl -- and tries to kill him. He is foiled when they briefly touch hands and are frozen by a mysterious force. When the force releases them Jesse becomes briefly invincible, and Cassius, after a bit of a delay, explodes in a giant fireball (he survives). They become involved in a circuitous set of plots that might possibly help them figure out what is going on, and maybe even what the pearls are.

I describe this as science fantasy because it is essentially a fantasy novel with shuttlecraft and air conditioning. The author makes no attempt to make the technology realistic, consistent with reality, or even consistent with itself. And, of course, the main characters have magical powers. However, it is a good fantasy-type quest, and the author does us the favor of making the magical-powers aspect clear in the first chapter.

The book has the feeling of being written as if it is a movie -- or, I suspect, a work of anime, although I have not seen enough anime to be certain. Real world physics are ignored completely, the world of the story being determined entirely by what makes a good visual effect. The language is overly dramatic, and not always meaningful; a sentence will thoughtlessly contradict a previous sentence in preference of using more dramatic and less precise language. Every idea, character, and plot point seems to be designed to conform to movie-script standard.

That said, it is quite exciting, and holds its own against other recent books of this sort, such as The Maze Runner and Divergent. It contains a good helping of adventure and slightly soap opera like drama (but only at the level you would expect from a space opera, and is likely to appeal to young readers (10-16) who want excitement and don't care too much about hard science fiction.

The next book in the series is Crimson Rising, the third is Strikeforce.

ISBN: 073872341X
ISBN13: 9780738723419
Accelerated Reader: 4.5