7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Title: Under the Never Sky

Author: Veronica Rossi

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: HarperCollins (US) / Atom (UK)
Publication Date: January 2012 (US) / February 2012 (UK)
Hardcover: 384 pages

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in a planned trilogy

How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher (via NY Comicon!)

Why did I read this book: Why, hello pre-publication book buzz. Under the Never Sky is one of the Much Buzzed About titles of 2012, with rights sold in 20 markets (with six-figure advances), and film rights to the trilogy have been secured by Warner Brothers (beating out the ubiquitous YA dystopian film right snatching Summit Entertainment). I saw Veronica Rossi speak at NYCC last year and was intrigued by the concept of her book, outside of the hype machine. While the concept of a hi-tech-meets-low-tech dystopia isn’t new, when done well, it’s a story setup that I personally love. I was lucky enough to snag an ARC at the con, and eagerly counted down the days to publication for review.


In a world where the sky is blighted by a never ending lethal torrent called Aether, mankind has split into two factions – those who have chosen to live their entire lives in eco-sealed pods supported by technological innovation away from the Aether’s devastating reach, and those who have spurned life indoors and choose to embrace the world outside and the dangers the Aether may bring. In the pod city of Reverie, Aria lives a quiet, sheltered life with her mother Lumina, where they have all the comforts of a technologically advanced society. In Reverie, just like every other pod city, while humans may have limited physical quarters and mobility, they escape drudgery by accessing the virtual worlds of “The Realms” through their visual biological implants (called Smarteyes). When Lumina is transported to another pod city to continue genetic research and Aria doesn’t hear from her mother for over a week, though, her quiet world is shattered irreparably and she makes a decision to reach Lumina that will change everything.

Outside the Eloi-like existence of those in the pods with their placid, plugged-in lives, Peregrine’s world is one of brutal, unforgiving reality. In the realm outside the bubble-like pods, winters are harsh and Aether storms raze entire crop yields and villages. Perry’s tribe, the Tides, prepares for the coming cold but struggles without a shortage of food, gradual sickness, and fractured leadership. The Tides’ Blood Lord is Perry’s grieving older brother, and Perry must control his urge for dominance of the tribe – and with his dual gifts for scenting others’ emotions (“tempers”) and his ability to see great distances even at night, Perry’s urge for power is strong indeed – in order to preserve their already fractured relationship. When Perry’s nephew is abducted by men from the pod cities, Perry vows he will do anything to get him back and leaves the Tides, perhaps for good.

Along the way, Perry and Aria’s paths will cross, and they two will stumble upon a shocking truth that will define and change both of their worlds forever.

At first glance, Under the Never Sky is a whole bunch of the familiar, as the book uses many tropes of which I am not a huge fan. There are quite a few things that bother me about the book – namely the lack of scientific background, the lack of actual answers (what the heck is the Aether, anyways?), and the silly sounding technology (A “Smarteye”, really?). The narrative style for the novel is also unappealing, as it uses the increasingly popular alternating heroine/hero chapter perspective.1 There’s also the more significant problem that the high-tech component of the world doesn’t actually make sense – how exactly is it that people in pod cities like Reverie exist in the real world and spend all their time in the realms? Why would these people bother with walking around at all if they are plugged in for literally every second of their lives? How are these people walking around yet simultaneously navigating virtual worlds? Why bother engineering physical genetic traits when one can make themselves look like anything in the Realms? SO many grating inconsistencies.

And yet, despite all my criticisms…I found myself truly enjoying the book.

As I’ve said above, the concept of a hi-meets-low-tech dystopia isn’t particularly new or novel – see Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, Pedar O’Guillin’s The Inferior – but it is one of my personal favorite tropes, especially in science fiction.2 And, to Under the Never Sky‘s credit, once the story shifts from the city of Reverie and moves to the outside world, it’s easy to put skepticism behind and get caught up in the journey of Aria and Perry as they struggle to save the people they love. I loved the brutality of Outside and the frightening power and unpredictability of the Aether (even if we never really learn what it actually is or why the sky is blighted by it), the scarceness of food, and the dangers faced by other tribes (including cannibal tribes, naturally). I actually think Under the Never Sky succeeds more as a fantasy novel, as opposed to a science fiction one. The powers that Perry has and the mutations that other Outsiders have developed because of their exposure to Aether have a greater similarity to magical powers than to science, and that’s perfectly fine – the detail of Perry’s ability to scent ‘tempers’ and the slew of other tactile gifts was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. The other believable, well-executed aspect of the story was the bitterness between outsiders and pod-dwellers. To Aria and her ilk, those who live outside are “savages”; to Perry and his brethren, those who live their rotting lives indoors are “moles”.

Which brings me to my next point. Beyond the plotting and world, I think the thing that won me over the most with this book is the decided lack of the dreaded insta-love (I was very scared when I opened the book and saw the alternating boy-girl chapters which, perhaps unfairly, always spells INSTALOVE OF DOOM in my eyes). Of course, obviously, Perry and Aria do eventually fall in love – but they don’t fall in love right away, which surprised me. I liked that Aria is rightfully, sanely scared out of her mind by Perry for the majority of the book (and there isn’t any fawning over his lusty good looks, either). There’s mutual distrust and fear on the part of both protagonists as they come from two different worlds that hate and distrust each other, and it’s only after enduring so much hardship together that the two begin to understand, respect, and only then grow to love each other. And I believed the love story and kinda fell for both Aria and Perry – what can I say? Maybe I’m not as jaded as I thought I was. I love Aria’s quick thinking and tenacity, just as I loved Perry’s unwavering dedication.

Ending on a high note that thankfully isn’t a bitter cliffhanger, I found myself surprisingly enamored with this book. I cannot wait for Through the Ever Night.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:

Magic. That was the word that came to Aria’s mind. An old word, from a time when illusions still mystified people. Before the Realms made magic common.She moved closer, drawn by the gold and amber tones in the flame. By the way it changed shape constantly. The smoke was richer than anything she had ever smelled. It tightened the skin along her arms. Then she saw how the burning leaves curled and blackened and disappeared.

This was wrong.

Aria looked up. Soren had frozen in place, his eyes wide. He looked bewitched, just as Paisley and the brothers did. Like they were seeing the fire without really seeing it.

“That’s enough,” she said. “We should turn it off . . . or get water or something.” No one moved. “Soren, it’s starting to spread.”

“Let’s give it more.”

“More? Trees are made of wood. It’ll spread to the trees!” Echo and Bane ran off before she’d finished speaking.

Paisley grabbed her sleeve, pulling her away from the burning stack. “Aria, stop or he’ll hurt you again.”

“This whole place is going to burn if we don’t do something.” She glanced back. Soren stood too close to the fire. The flames had nearly reached his height. The fire made sounds now, pops and crackles over a dull roar.

“Get sticks!” he yelled at the brothers. “The sticks make it stronger.”

Aria didn’t know what to do. When she thought of stopping them the ache in her shoulder flared, warning her of what might happen again. Echo and Bane ran up with armfuls of branches. They threw them onto the fire, sending sparks into the trees. A surge of hot air blew past her cheeks.

“We’re going to run, Paisley,” she whispered. “Ready . . .go.”

For the third time that night, Aria grasped Paisley’s hand. She couldn’t let Paisley fall behind. She wove through the trees, her legs churning, as she tried to keep them on a straight course. She didn’t know when the boys started chasing them, but she heard Soren behind her.

You can read the first five chapters on facebook.

Additional Thoughts: I don’t think I can finish this review without remarking on the awfulness that is both the US and UK covers for this book. The US cover has absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever. (The only similarity is that Aria is pale and dark haired – but she certainly doesn’t walk around in a black leather outfit with a single glove. The floaty streamers in the background and car dealership spotlights don’t really help things much, either.)

The UK cover is just…wow. I feel like there should be a unicorn on there somewhere. In fact, I think a unicorn would improve the cover – you know, in a go big or go home type of way.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

Reading Next: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, Kindle UK, nook, google, apple, kobo & sony

  1. To be frank, I haven’t been a huge fan of recent books that employ this trend; see Across the Universe and Legend.
  2. Case in point, I adore both Patrick Ness’s and Pedar O’Guillin’s books.


  • Sam
    January 11, 2012 at 4:54 am

    I am intrigued by the story (not to mention all the hype) but as I live in the UK, this is NOT a book I’d want to read in public. The pink-tinged cover, the weird half womb thing they’re reclining in, the terrible tagline…Gah, my eyes!

  • Amy @ Turn the Page
    January 11, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Thanks for the review – lately I’ve been so wary of dystopians even though I love the genre and I’m glad to hear that this might well live up to the hype.

    And yes on the covers – the US one is bland, silly and boring, but UK one is worse. It just looks so awkward and awful. Are they meant to look like out-of-proportion androids?

  • Linds @ Bibliophile Brouhaha
    January 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Wow, really great review. I was curious was to what you would think about this one. I haven’t read it yet, but I love the sci-fi aspect. Also, I kept thinking gated community meets “Man on Fire” when I read your review. Any information on “Aether” and what caused it? Do you think this a reference to ‘ether’?

  • Emily's Reading Room
    January 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I had many of the same complaints as you. Ultimately though, I felt like Perry and Aria sucked all the oxygen out of the room when they were alone. Roar was a nice character that added some spice to the story. But, I was bored for a lot of the story.

  • Rhylee
    January 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Thea, I have been reading reviews on this website for over six months but this is my first comment. I just want to thank you for all the great reviews and suggestions. This book is just another I will add TBR. It is sad to say that I am often turned off by a book’s cover and this one would not have received a second glance… though maybe the UK cover would. It seems almost to have this strange 80s vibe to it.

    I have realized I agree with so many of your reviews that I have been going back and seeing those that you have given the highest marks too. I just finished the entire Kushiel series and it was amazing. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your opinions.

  • kara-karina
    January 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    yep, you are totally right about UK cover – glittering unicorn is just what it needs to complete the cheeziness :))) Too awful for words. I also was very relieved that the main characters feelings develop at normal pace, I was dreading insta-love too and was thankful it didn’t happen.Looking forward to book #2 very much!

  • Heidi
    January 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I agree with you that there were so many unexplained phenomena and questions in the world building that it was somewhat grating–I am hoping that there will be more detail in books to come. Not only is the Aether not explained, the event referred to as “The Unity” is alluded to as what reduced people to pods or tribes, but no background is provided. It was certainly a genre bender that probably would have worked better with a fantasy label. I also threw up a little at the UK cover, I mean wow. That said, I too was completely charmed by Aria and Perry and their lack of instalove! Can’t wait for the next book, but am so happy there wasn’t a cliff hanger so I didn’t have to throw anything when I was done.

  • Thea
    January 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Sam – DUDE. I don’t blame you in the slightest. This is where ebooks come in handy 😉

    Amy – I hope you enjoy this book and find it a nice break from the usual dystopian YA suspects. It took me a little while to get into this book, but I think it’s worth the time investment! And yes, the covers are terrible – the UK cover totally looks android-esque! Very true.

    Linds – Definitely, I think you’re right on the money with “aether” = “ether” – it’s a nice play on words. I just wish we had more history or scientific background! Is it a humans scorching the sky ala the Matrix? A solar storm? Some kind of freak particle that adheres to the atmosphere irreparably? There are tons of possibilities but no answers…yet. Hopefully the next two books explain more!

    Emily – Fair enough! I almost always feel the same way and often find myself underwhelmed by relationships like Aria’s and Perry’s…but I don’t know. This worked for me! I agree that Rory was a fantastic character (and I hope to see more of him in the next book, hopefully meeting up with Perry’s sister!). I also loved Cinder, for what it’s worth!

    Rhylee – Wow, thanks so much for the comment!!! I’m seriously honored and humbled and so happy to hear that you’re a fan. I sincerely hope you enjoy this book!!! (And if you haven’t tried him yet, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking books for more of this type of YA/SF/dystopia if you do end up enjoying this one.) I’m SO glad you loved the Kushiel books – Jacqueline Carey is one of my heroes and one of those auto-recommend authors for whom you want to scream from the rooftops, ‘READ THIS BOOK!’ 😀


    Kara-Karina – Glittering unicorn AND I feel like…an electric guitar. Right? Wouldn’t that complete the picture beautifully? Heh. Seriously, I hear ya on the natural evolution of the relationship between Aria and Perry and will be waiting in line with you for book 2!

    Heidi – YES! What the heck is “the Unity”?!?! MORE DETAILS! I would love them. I have hope that more will be revealed in books 2 and 3, at least. I’m so glad you liked the book too (despite the warranted skepticism)!

  • Linds @ Bibliophile Brouhaha
    January 12, 2012 at 6:57 am

    In history, Eleanor of Aquitaine was named that because, “Eleanor was named for her mother Aenor and called Aliénor, from the Latin alia Aenor, which means the other Aenor.” It was a pun on her mother’s name.

    When I read the word ‘aether’ it reminded me of that, that it was ‘another’ ether. Which makes me wonder what the original one was, or that the ‘aether’ Of course, I just looked aether up, and it “was the personification of the “upper sky”, space and heaven, in Greek mythology” and “a concept, historically, used in science (as a medium) and in philosophy (as a substance)”. Ether also was used to put people under in operations, I think it the late 1800s and early 1900s. Then it became a recreational drug, as well.

    Okay, enough with the history lesson, but the word caught my attention 🙂

  • Vildea
    January 13, 2012 at 7:26 am

    This has been one of those books that I’ve been wary to read because it reminds me SO much of a lot of other novels that I really didn’t like that were dystopic as well. But seeing how you liked it and seeing that our dystopia tastes are pretty similar (I love, love, LOVE Michael Grant even though I’ve only read the first three so far). I’m also going to give A Long Long Sleep a try, since it’s been sitting sadly neglected on my Kindle for aaages!

  • UnavoidablyDetained
    January 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Wow. Sounds interesting. And I am truly a sucker for a good cover, really. I guess I’ve gotta see whats going on with this book.

  • KMont
    January 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I dunno, the premise sounds good, but what you say it lacks leaves me doubtful that the story is very compelling. That amount of lacking details just tends to frustrate m way too much.

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    September 6, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Dear Thebooksmugglers,
    I know what you mean, My boyfriend and I booked a trip to Vegas on Spirit Airlines. After reading all the bad reviews I decided I would call and ask to pay to ensure that we are actually seated next to each other. When I called the customer service line though, the guy said that since we are booked under the same reservation we are guaranteed seats next to each other. Has anyone had experience flying with them that could confirm this? Ill pay if I have to but I don’t wanna waste the money if not necessary.
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  • Reader Red
    May 4, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    The “You might also like” is totally way off and doesn’t look similar to Under the Never Sky at all. Why? Someone just threw those up with out ever even having read Under the Never Sky? Don’t put that up if its not like Under the Never Sky. I actually would like to know books that are like this book in as evryway as possible because it was so good. Ts a recipe for one of my favorite meals

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