I was generously given a free copy of Cathedral of the Sky from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Cathedral of the Sky occurs concurrently with Sunset, the first book in the Pact Arcanum series set in a unique, interesting, and complex world. It is the story of young Michael Danvers, the hero who saves the day at the end of Sunset. We already know about Michael's life--and his destiny which is where this book ends--and thus it is an expansion of that story from Michael's perspective. Because of this as well as the complexity of this fascinating world, it is better to read Sunset before this book. This novel is less convoluted and more linear than Sunset and therefore less confusing. It could be read alone, but the universe in which it takes place is complicated and is not explained as thoroughly here. I enjoyed the beginning of the novel far more than I did the beginning of Sunset. Unfortunately, the novel didn't stand up to the first few chapters and I was not happy with the way it progressed or ended.
This expansion of Michael's story doesn't deliver a whole lot more information that what is presented in Sunset. A significant amount of the text is directly taken from the previous novel. While it is necessary to repeat those events, I would have appreciated a slightly different telling rather than verbatim writing. (An excellent book that did a better, although not perfect, job of describing the same scene from two different perspectives is Houseboat on the Nile.) I was able to skim these scenes in Cathedral of the Sky and thus this was a very quick read.
The primary difference here is the addition of a sort of love interest, William. I say sort of because Michael is oblivious through most of the book and William is gone by the time Michael is told about William's feelings. Which brings me to the biggest problem that I have with the Pact Arcanum series: the relationships, some of which are disturbing. I don't feel that emotion is expressed in a way that is believable or in depth. The characters talk about how they feel but I never really buy into it. In fact, although this series is labeled M/M Romance, I wouldn't categorize it that way. It is a modern fantasy/science fiction crossover and succeeds much better from that perspective. In Sunset, I felt that the relationships were just part of the saga because relationships always are part of epics, and that the "soul mate" idea was only included to appease those looking for romance. In Cathedral of the Sky, I felt the romance didn't fit at all and was just added in order to make the book fit the same genre as the other books in the series.
Although the novel has a teenaged protagonist, it is not appropriate for all teens. For example, one scene begins with the completion of a sexual liaison. Although sex scenes are increasingly common in young adult books, it is not something I personally think is always appropriate and this one falls into that category. Here is one example of the extreme age differences that permeate this story: The sex scene is between a 20-year-old and a woman three times his age. Worse is the relationship between William, who is 20, and Michael, who is 13 when they meet. William doesn't tell Michael of his attraction because of the age difference, but the whole novel takes place in the course of exactly two years and three weeks, and William only appears for the first nine or ten months. Yet the alleged HEA (most people would probably think it's an HEA but I don't) is based on this very short period of interaction.I have a major problem with that.
I think this extreme age difference is completely unnecessary. Michael is way too mature and calm to be believable. William is intelligent and capable and he could have been younger. He could have been a young genius, too, not as young and not as much of a genius as Michael, just precocious, and advancing more slowly. Michael didn't need to be so young either. He was captain of major space vessels when he was 14. A 14-year-old might be capable of that but no way does he have the level of diplomacy and leadership required. No matter how mature a young man appears, or how brilliant, his emotional maturity is a different thing. Extremely intelligent young people often are emotionally immature as a result of the dichotomy between their age, intelligence, and inability to relate to their peers. Plus, there is absolutely no substitution for experience. Experience brings more information and a 13-15 year old just hasn't had enough. Think of it as research. It takes time to gather facts and that short period of time just isn't enough for someone to do all that he needs to do to accomplish what Michael does and also read enough and experience enough to understand the subtleties that create a great leader. Brains don't make a leader, wisdom does, and that takes time and experiences with other people.
This story is sad like the other books in this series. Despite this fantasy world full of the incredible and that which is difficult to accept, the author tries to add realism in basically one area: the mortality of humans. This is the one thing I don't like in my escapist fiction. I don't want to come to love and care about people and have them die. It's what I think of as the Joss Whedon syndrome: No one ever has what I consider a happily ever after. Whedon creates the most amazing series but never lets any characters be happy for long. Yes death and loss and divorce, etc., happen but there are plenty of people who stay together, in love, until they die of old age. I get the same impression of randomly throwing in tragedy with Ahsanuddin. However, even negative emotions aren't well explored. In both books, Michael attends the funeral of a close friend. In Sunset, he is barely paying attention in the scene, much more interested in something else going on in the room. We are led to believe the dead man is just a fellow academy student. In Cathedral of the Sky, Michael is very close to the person and yet almost nothing is changed in the scene from the version in Sunset and is repeated almost verbatim.
Overall, Cathedral of the Sky is well written with interesting characters that takes place in the fascinating and unique world of Pact Arcanum that Ahsanuddin has created. However, the framework is flimsy and based on a story we already know with little added. The characters are shallow and are in desperate need of being fully fleshed witch they deserve. The emotional depth is lacking and the romance is secondary and actually feels tertiary to the story. Michael's feelings for William are out of the blue and unbelievable. The story had potential but it just fell flat.
2.25 stars rounded down because of the extreme and unnecessary age difference.