Title: The Never Tilting World
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publication Date: October 15th, 2019
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQ
Age Range: YA
A demoness is what men call a goddess they cannot control.
Excuse me while I yodel about this book for ten million years.
[Julie Andrews voice] These are a few of my favorite things…and they’re all in The Never Tilting World! There’s a great ensemble cast, diverse representation, snark, magic, a f/f bodyguard and charge romance, an enemies to lovers romance, AND an important message about climate change on top of that? Rin Chupeco, you get me. You really get me.
Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.
For the briefest second we were the only two beings in the world, human and monster. For the briefest second I was uncertain which of us was which.
The characterization in The Never Tilting World was so fascinating to read. The book is narrated by Odessa, Haidee, Arjun, and Tianlan (Lan for short), and they all have distinctive voices despite every chapter being written in first person POV. I loved the way Rin Chupeco handled everyone’s arc, but Odessa’s was especially interesting to me as she slowly travels in the opposite direction as the other protagonists. Towards the middle of the book, Odessa contends with a man found guilty of sexual assault from beyond the grave, but because her powers have grown, she still finds a way to communicate with him. This new side of Odessa made me think about justice – who gets to enact it, when, and how far we’re willing to go in our pursuit of it.
While Odessa’s spiral down was my favorite arc to read, the character that really stole the show for me was Arjun. If you’re familiar with Avatar: The Last Airbender, Arjun strongly reminded me of Sokka. Not only was he the most sarcastic character of our main four, but he constantly had to take new and magical changes in stride, treating it all with a Well, I guess we’re doing this now kind of attitude. From the start, he’s not quite sure what to make of Haidee, but he believes in her and her mission enough to stick around and see things through, because he trusts that she can create the future he hopes to see. He proves himself to be a valuable asset and friend, even if he may not know what’s going on all the time or understand the most magical aspects of their journey.
Our four main characters differ in personality, abilities, status, etc., but they are all driven by their desire for a better world. They contend with the fact that the Breaking (the destruction and subsequent splitting of the world) is none of their faults in various ways, and every one of them resolves to fix what the generation before them destroyed because they know that they deserve more. I loved their individual arcs and the different kinds of growth in their relationships with each other – and good GOD can we talk about how well Rin Chupeco does slow burn romance?? The pining…the yearning…it’s about the yearning.
…they deserve a better world than this. And just because the people in charge screwed everything to hell and beyond doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to take back what we’re owed.
Characters aside, the premise of The Never Tilting World is unbelievably crucial and current. Odessa and Haidee, along with their originally unwilling guides, are fighting to combat horrifically destructive climate change that was brought on by the generation before them. I think it’s so so so fitting that the average age of the narrators is 17 and they’re leading the charge for a better world than the one they live in. They have to navigate through numerous obstacles and awkward, newfound love along the way, and I honestly just love the fact that this is a story about a group of kickass teenagers taking on climate change.
Rin Chupeco’s world-building is to die for, and I loved learning more about gates and how they were limited based on the environments people were living in. I think it was a really unique spin on elemental abilities that tied in to the message about how climate change affects everyone, whether they realize it or not. The concept of using gates to channel elements in different forms was creative and aside from Arjun’s similarities to Sokka, I could actually see quite a few parallels to Avatar, which is an automatic win for me.
While I loved the world-building, characters, and relationships throughout the book, I was a little let down by the ending. There was a lot of build up leading into the last few chapters, but I personally felt like more time could have been spent on the actual climax and aftermath. I was mostly invested because of the characters, and I just felt like the ending didn’t give me what I was looking for. But hey – that’s what sequels are for, right? And I think a less impactful plot can be forgiven for the sake of a really strong, relevant message, and amazing characters that are an absolute joy to read about.
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Have you gotten a chance to read The Never Tilting World yet? Who’s your favorite out of the core four?