The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco blew me away. Everything from the setting to the plot to the characters had me on the edge of my seat in a book that ended all too soon.
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.
I didn’t instantly fall in love with The Never Tilting World. The first few chapters thrust the reader into a world with little to no explanation of how it works. While it relies on magic, the system used is different from what I was used to, and it took a while to figure everything out. After that, I was fascinated by it. The world-building veers from traditional fantasy as it blends aspects of our own science and technology into it without dampening the magical element.
The Never Tilting World is very well written. In terms of style it’s dynamic, easy to get through, and sucks the reader in from the beginning. However, it’s how the story is written that made it so compelling. The fact that it’s told in first person, with four separate viewpoints, means that we know what each character knows. But it also means that we are in the dark on quite a few things and learn as we go.
One of the best examples of this is when Odessa starts to gain her powers without knowing how or why. At the same time, Haidee learns about the rituals and the history of the planet. The unreliable narrators coupled with having to sort out fact from fiction kept me guessing throughout.
Of course, this guessing game is partly due to the plot. It’s well constructed and fast-paced, with well-placed breather moments so as not to overwhelm the reader. It is also surprisingly complete for a book that has a sequel. While the ending certainly opens up to one, it’s not the cliffhanger I was anticipating. The twists are unexpected. The foreshadowing is well done because events do not come as a complete surprise. They caught me off guard in the moment — especially those concerning the background characters.
It’s hard to pick what Chupeco did best in this book, but the characters are certainly one of the main reasons I was drawn in. The first character I met was Lan. I won’t mince words: her chapter opens violently and she wasn’t very likeable at first, but her evolution throughout the book was impressive.
Next we meet Arjun, Haidee and finally Odessa. Out of everyone, Haidee was definitely my favourite. She’s optimistic, trusting, smart, a little reckless and doesn’t fall into any of the tropes that sacrifice personality for being a “strong female character”. Odessa, on the other hand, is shy and yearns for more. Her path to healing the planet takes a much darker turn when she accepts the gifts the underworld brings.
The romances that develop throughout the book are distinguishable beyond the fact that one is straight and the other is not. Each couple interacts and grows in their own unique way, which further deepens each character’s personality.
Finally, a word of warning: The Never Tilting World does deal with heavier themes. Mental health is a core subject of this story. Both Odessa and Lan suffer blows to theirs, while the side characters process their own trauma in various ways. There are themes of violence that are addressed throughout the book. The fight scenes are explicit, past sexual violence is mentioned, and some physical abuse becomes plot points. If you are at all sensitive to anything mentioned, I recommend approaching this book with caution.
Rin Chupeco’s The Never Tilting World is a complex fantasy that addresses themes often avoided in the genre, while gripping its reader and not letting go until the end. I loved this first book and I can’t wait explore more of this story!
Editor’s note: This book is definitely for the older readers of the YA genre. Beyond what I mentioned above, there are overt sex scenes and strong language.