Think of a world that hovers above the clouds, where floating airships, dragons, and other flying creatures, roam the vast expanse of the sky. Imagine a reality wherein the nation’s military force is at war with nefarious sky pirates hungry for revenge. Picture a realm filled with magic and enchantment that would surely set anyone on a journey of a lifetime. For all diehard fans of fiction and fantasy, as well as all the dreamers out there, with ambitions as high as the sky, such a world does exist in Katrina Olan’s latest YA sci-fi/fantasy novel, Skies Above.
The story is set in a fictional floating world called Estareos, that’s unlike any other. Its people travel around airships of all sorts and sizes in order to travel from one suspended island to the next. The novel is also filled with magic and its own set of mystical creatures that would surely captivate and appeal to the reader’s imagination.
But more than the world that’s creatively constructed and masterfully woven by the author, the characters of Skies Above are just as compelling and fascinating. The story’s main protagonist, Keith Asral, is a small-town teenager who has been living a dull and routine-like existence for the most part of his life. Despite this, living on a small and isolated island like Arkia did not stop Keith from dreaming of commanding the skies as a top-notch aeronaut. Little does he know, his mundane life will never be the same again. As Keith’s story illustrates, even the most unexpected of things can happen when we least anticipate them. On the other hand, the novel’s main antagonist, Lord Pirate Midnight, is as equally riveting. Having lost his predecessor and daughter at the hands of a pirate lord, Midnight has since been consumed by an insatiable thirst for vengeance as he seeks to avenge his daughter and his people who have been exiled by the pirate alliance. As exemplified by Midnight’s case, some people will stop at nothing to accomplish what they set out to do and use whatever means necessary, in the process.
As you learn more about these characters and the motivations that drive them, you, as the reader, start to question how you deal with the challenges that life throws your way. Do you view your present condition as an obstacle or a path to success or happiness? Are you weighed down by the difficulty of the situation you find yourself in? Or are you courageous enough to accept your current circumstances as you aim for greater heights?
At the heart of this novel are the perennial themes of fate and destiny. Can we simply ascribe everything that happens to us as a product of chance or are we capable, as human beings, of making our own fortune? In Skies Above, Keith, Midnight, and the rest of the characters will attempt to prove, not everything is out of our control and that man is indeed capable of determining his destiny, despite what his present circumstances may dictate.
However, what truly sets Skies Above apart is the undeniable influence of liberal arts on the pages that comprise the novel. As the story progresses, the author’s insights on the nature of the human person gradually emerge. Readers are able to realize that, while history and the world’s current state may depict man as an individual prone to evil acts, such as murder and corruption, the characters in the novel show that man is also capable of doing immense good because he is endowed with the capacity for life and for love. However, the author contends that this imperfection in man’s nature is what makes humanity truly beautiful because he must constantly strive to direct his actions in pursuit of the truth, towards what is truly good.
The story of Skies Above may be fictional, but the insights and perceptions that the author offers on courage, on truth, and on humanity are very much relevant and still hold true in our world today. We may not be at the mercy of the cataclysms that constantly plague the citizens of Estareos. However, we find ourselves facing “troubled skies” at various points in our lives, may it be in our academic requirements, our careers, or our personal matters. Thus, the challenge remains that we all strive to brave our own storms and endure, despite all the odds stacked against us. Because as Samuel Rutherford once put it, “After every storm, there comes clear open skies.”
Photo credits c(o): Katrina Olan, Ady Cooper, and Marius Reonico