If there is one thing to say about Gabrielle Gagné-Cyr’s freshman effort, it is an impressive stack of pages. Buckle your swashes ladies and gents because A Flight in the Heavens is 400+ pages of fantasy adventure, full of the colorful cast and exotic locals one would hope to find in a book primarily centered on a flying pirate ship.
Unfortunately for this reader, the over 400 page factor is where Flight falls flat. Gagné-Cyr has woven a fascinating world from a tapestry of both well-loved science fiction tropes and more modern creations. There’s a distinctly Pokémon-ish feel to this hunt for gods, the badass lady captain with a mech-arm and an impressive war machine under her command is strongly reminiscent of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in the latest Mad Max installment, and one of the hunted gods reads as patterned on the Great Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke. All three of these are properties I have enormous personal attachment to, and yet all of that promise gets dragged under by the weight of the prose. Where one sentence would convey the meaning desired and deliver a sharper impact, Flight tends to give readers three sentences that are often confused by awkward vocabulary choice.
I read the following pair of sentences twice before I was comfortable with the meaning, and even now the way myriad is used here makes the philologist living in my heart twitch:
“Humans were bound to have come here before. In conjunction with their gods, they had built the deities’ shrines a myriad of eras before.” (A Flight in the Heavens, page 110)
That said, I largely picked up Flight because it came with the warning that there was an LGBTQ+ romance involved and your girl got curious. You don’t see that much in science fiction, at least not from your main characters, so I was interested to see how well that portion of the narrative was handled, and I’m happy to report that it was handled well.
Our two female leads tend to stare and sigh over each other in the back third of the novel, and there’s some awkwardness with a boy being in love with one of them for most of the book without realizing she plays for the other team, but the romantic thread itself is handled with as much grace as the afore-mentioned writing style allows. There’s some shaming and eventual fridging of the resident slut that I’m not wild about, but the leading lesbians are strongly drawn and their attraction to each other is relatively believable.
All in all, I stand by my opening statement. The completion of over 400 pages of anything is an impressive accomplishment, and one that should be celebrated. The fact that a sequel is not only planned, but apparently well on its way, should also be applauded as an impressive accomplishment from a new author.
Unfortunately for me, the clunky prose meant that it didn’t quite soar.