Book Review: The Cerulean

Ian Collamer

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Most people who checked out Amy Ewing’s novel The Cerulean did so because of the beautifully designed cover art. The cover features the main protagonist, Sera Lighthaven, falling through a nebula below the background of a moonlit city with the title displayed in a thin and reflective font. Though a simple design, the cover is still captivating enough to get people interested.
The synopsis of the novel adds to this interest, divulging details about the setting of the story, a mysterious ‘City Above the Sky’ that’s tethered to another planet, and hinting towards a secret villain with an unknown identity.
So readers will likely be disappointed with the extremely average story Ewing ends up telling. While the book has many positive moments, the negatives are just as numerous. First, the point of view. Most books have only one point of view, the one told by the narrator. Some switch between two, usually to increase tension during exciting scenes. The Cerulean has four. While this may have been to break the mold of traditional literature, Ewing’s attempt falls short. The different narrations come across as having no other purpose than to break the monotony of Sera’s thoughts. While a skilled writer can pull off having several perspectives, Ewing did not manage this. Instead, she created confusion, and only two of the perspectives are really that interesting (Sera’s own and another character’s that shows up later). The points of views can also be inconsistent, as one of the characters acts a certain way when the story is shown through his point of view, but completely changes when switching to a different character.
Another problem is the planet to which the City Above the Sky is tethered and the country in which Sera lands, Kaolin. These settings are just really boring. Three characters are in this country, Sera and a set of two siblings. This City holds the potential to be interesting if even one of the characters actually explored it. But most of the time, those three points of view are either in their house or just behind it. The reader could map the layout of the house after one quick read-through. Again, this fault could easily be fixed if the house were in any way interesting, but the house is a regular wooden one from the eighteenth century. There’s essentially no change in setting, and it grows boring quickly.
The Cerulean can be viewed as controversial because of its inclusion of LGBT characters. The Ceruleans each have three mothers (green, purple, and orange) that teach them about various aspects of the City. Because the Ceruleans are exclusively women and there are no men, they reproduce magically. Sera is attracted to men, which she doesn’t realize until she lands on the planet. Many reviews of this book claim that Ewing was ‘queerbaiting’ and that she misrepresented the LGBT community, but people who disagree say that, since this concept plays a very minor role and was only used to differentiate Sera from the rest of the Ceruleans, its use is fine.
There are some positives of the novel, one especially being the premise. A floating city inhabited by people with magic in their blood living in a perfect world that’s magically tethered to a planet and can only be separated by a sacrifice sounds like a pretty interesting story. While the first half of the story is a bit of a boring info dump, the second half has enough action to keep readers engaged. The last third of the book introduces the final point of view, and it’s by far the best part of the book, bringing the reader back to the City Above the Sky. It differs from the beginning of the novel by shattering the image Ewing gives of the city and introducing a mystery element with a dark subplot. Additionally, the book is entertaining for no particular reason. Even if it can be boring at times, overall, The Cerulean is hard to put down.
The Cerulean has several ups and downs, which can put off a lot of people. But overall, if you can get past those small negatives, the book is easily a four out of five. Ewing’s character development, attention to detail, and creation of cool concepts makes this book a great read.