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All the Birds in the Sky    by Charlie Jane Anders order for
All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders is an extraordinary work of imagination, smoothly blending fantasy, science fiction and coming of age stories with quests to avoid Armageddon. The leads (Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead) are two young people, talented in very different ways, their only connection that of being total outsiders.

The beginning of the novel reminded me of Louis Sachar's Holes, as these two youngsters face terrible bullying and injustice, with no support (in fact, more of the opposite) from their families. Each discovers their passion and life direction while running away. Six-year-old Patricia rescues an injured bird, and discovers that she can talk to it. It encourages her to take it to the Parliament of Birds, where she's greeted as a witch and is asked the Endless Question, 'Is a tree red?' She has no answer ... yet.

Laurence is the ultimate nerd, forced by his parents to take classes 'designed to Get Out of the House' - these simply turn into places to be bullied. Running away to watch a 'privately funded, DIY spaceship' launched into orbit, he connects with people who will affect his future. Patricia and Laurence meet as outcast teens and help each other a little. They are stalked by Theodolphus Rose, of the 'Nameless Order of Assassins'. He hurts both, but they survive, Laurence evolving into a tech genius, while fiery spices release witchy powers for Patricia.

Patricia takes the opportunity to attend a secret academy for witches, while Laurence (who has created a distributed AI called CH@NG3M3 with her inadvertent help) continues his math and science studies. As adults, Patricia uses her magic to help people in need (while being warned against Aggrandizement by her mentors) and Laurence becomes a tech Wunderkind working hard to save the world - which soon desperately needs saving! Unfortunately, the groups that Patricia and Laurence are aligned with have diametrically opposing views on how to do it.

There is global catastrophe. Conflict and violence ensue between witches and technocrats, despite our hero and heroine still helping each other when they can - and growing every closer. Can doomsday be averted? Read All the Birds in the Sky for the answer. It's a very unusual and very engaging read.

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