By: Shianne Henion | September 27, 2021
The sun and moon sit in polarizing climates, one with scorching deserts, the other with a city close to drowning.
“The Never Tilting World” by Rin Chupeco was published in 2019 by Harper Teen. In this tale, two sisters live on different ends of the mythical world of Aeon, suffering through dangerous terrain in order to reach the Breaking: the place that caused the world’s standstill. They seek to fix the wrongs of their ancestors while overcoming their internal conflicts and tasting freedom for the first time.
Odessa and Haidee are twin sisters, goddesses of their cities and people. Odessa lives in Aranth, the city under the moon, where oceans churn viciously and threaten the wall that protects Aranth from its wrath. Haidee is the princess of The Golden City, the place trapped under the sun. Haidee is stuck under her mother’s strict rules, wishing desperately to achieve her goals as a mechanika— someone who works with machinery, like rigs, which are like dune buggies, only they are powered by air and sand.
The two sisters do not know of the other’s existence, believing themselves to be the only twin (they both think the other is dead). Odessa lives with Queen Asteria, who she thinks is her true birth mother, as Haidee believes Queen Latona is hers. As to who the true mother of both is a mystery that is not solved.
During the Breaking, both Latona and Asteria took to their own sides of Aeon, where they rule. Asteria the Queen of Night, and Latona the Queen of Day. It is unclear how Odessa and Haidee ended up on opposite sides, and is not explored for the majority of the book, as the plot boils down to the two of them both trying to reach the same destination.
Both princesses chase destiny which they achieve by completing the Brighthenge ritual. This ritual is when the chosen goddess—there can only be one—follows the guide of Inanna, the original goddess, and accepts gifts from seven demons as she journeys on to Brighthenge. It is there when the ritual is complete, but no one knows what that actually entails. It is in no history book, and it is up to Odessa and Haidee to uncover the truth.
Their mothers try to keep them from their fated quest, but both sneak away from their safe homes, risking their lives to reach Brighthenge, also known as the Breaking, where the world fell apart.
There are four point-of-views in “The Never Tilting World.” Tianlan, Odessa, Haidee, and Arjun.
Chupeco reels in the reader with their character ‘Tianlan,’ the badass Catseye—healer—who is in love with Odessa. You see the worldbuilding through Lan’s lens, and come to understand how Aeon ended up with the sun and moon at opposite ends of it. Lan is overcome with conflict when she realizes the girl she loves is actually Odessa, who at the time would disguise herself before heading into town, becoming a false person named Ame.
The worst part? Lan is assigned to be Odessa’s healer, so the love must come to a swift end. This is because of the unprofessionalism of a queen falling in love with her servant. But there is also the conflict of Odessa having to one day marry a man to birth children. Lan, being a woman, cannot fulfill the needs Odessa will need one day.
Arjun is a nomad in The Golden City. His tribe scavenges for survival, and fights other tribes, such as the cannibalistic Hellmakers. I loved reading about the world through Arjun’s perspective and the way he responded to inane conflicts.
Odessa is a princess who cannot peel potatoes. Haidee wants to protect the creatures of Aeon, such as dulogongs, which are like fish, but also dogs. Odessa is described as being cloistered and unfit for the world outside Aranth. Haidee never wants to get married, and is subjected to her mother’s pestering about it. They both live such different lives, yet they are exactly the same. Both leave their homes to try and save the world their parents broke.
Chupeco balances worldbuilding and character development on an even scale. In order to understand the world, the reader sees it as the characters see it, which gives a not-so-perfect description of the fractured scenery, of the constant night or day and the frustrations these characters face by these extreme climates.
There is a constant crisis, conflict elevating within every chapter. Sudden change happens that the characters themselves are stunned. But with this comes descriptive, enticing imagery that stained my eyes with its vivacious scenery. During the adventure Lan and Odessa undertake to reach the Breaking, they make it to one of their checkpoints—the Lunar Lakes.
Chupeco describes them as an asymmetrical mass, an irregular cluster of holes that disquiet the eyes. They are repulsive to look at because they resemble (in the lens of Odessa) an open wound that bled silver against the world’s surface, like a beehive that dispersed danger; not honey.
There are a variety of elements to “The Never Tilting World,” with a structured magic system containing components that, unless thoroughly flushed out, can wind up being confusing. Throughout the story, Chupeco introduces new elements to the magic that if you already don’t understand it, you may find it confusing. I certainly did, especially when it’s obvious there are things that are being hidden from me. I know that it will come up later as a means for plot. But I find myself asking what the purpose of this is. I find myself misunderstanding, and I think because of the fact that this book is crammed with information, the magic system can get jumbled.
Overall, I rated “The Never Tilting World” three stars on Goodreads. I loved the story overall, especially Arjun. He has become a favorite character of mine. But this did not meet five stars for me because of the magic system, as I did have to reread pages to understand the context of one’s magic. I like when a system has its limits, and it seemed that there were an endless amount of magical spells that could occur. Instead, it was lost on me.
I also took issue with the last 50 pages. I see this often within fantasy books, having plenty of information for readers to absorb but falling flat in the finale of the story. Instead, what occurs is a rush of important moments that need to be truly flushed out, and it upends the chapters of material that led up to it.
There are about 500 pages within this book, yet the major conflict took up thirty of those pages. I had much anticipation, awaiting the moment when Odessa and Haidee finally encountered one another. I was expecting Odessa to go through this villainous character change, given that it is her that accepts the gifts from the demons. She becomes someone else entirely, corrupted by demonic blight. Though, at the last minute, her character arc crashes, retaining back to her original flat personality. It shattered my expectations. I would have loved to see a protagonist turn into an anti-hero.
I was unsatisfied with the ending and confused by the structure of it because it made no sense to me. Books that contain mounds of information, with important components in worldbuilding and the magic system, need to end strongly. It is a shame that this one did not.
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