After enduring the reading marathon that was my last read, I wanted my next book to be easy. I didn’t want to think too hard or chase down a complicated plot, but I still wanted a little bit of substance. And you know what? Elise Kova delivered that and more in Air Awakens. This book has been on my TBR for years, and I am delighted by how much I enjoyed this story.
Vhalla Yarl has spent several years serving as a library apprentice in the palace. She often reads books while going about her duties, and it seems that she knows the contents on the library shelves better than anyone. When the kingdom’s prince is injured in battle, the apprentices are called to scour the library for information to aid his healing. Vhalla’s incredible knowledge and desire to save the prince causes her magical abilities to manifest, and the sorcerers in the palace seek her out immediately. They want Vhalla to cultivate her powers, but she is terrified of the danger magic poses and worries she will be used as a pawn in the kingdom’s ongoing war. As Vhalla weighs her decision, the people and life she is desperate to return to may not be open to her any longer.
Air Awakens was refreshing. It was a nice change of pace to read a well-written story that wasn’t constantly trying to one-up itself every other chapter. The story relishes in the small things and is perfectly content following Vhalla in her unassuming life as she attempts to sort out her future. Vhalla has awkward moments with her friends, goes about her assigned library duties, and reserves some awe for the time she spends learning about her power. Now, there are absolutely exciting moments, and I enjoyed these instances even more because of how much they stand out from the rest of the book. One of my favorite moments happens early on and features the prince using an unconventional method to make Vhalla manifest her power.
You may think that trailing after a library apprentice for 300 pages would be boring, but it wasn’t. Kova has great pacing, and she makes the story interesting by constantly throwing Vhalla into new situations to spark a reaction. Does this make for some classic young adult moments? Absolutely. But I give Kova credit for not making these moments cringey, and she accomplishes this by not lingering on these instances. Does the prince see Vhalla with another man? Yeah, but does it drag on for five chapters until someone finally admits they’re mad? No way. It’s actually never even addressed. There’s a magical war being waged, and Kova doesn’t have time to spare for young and dumb feelings. The elements that make this story YA never become the focal point, which is why it reads so well. While young and unsure of herself, Vhalla has agency fueled not by romantic feelings or flimsy reasonings, but by an actual desire to create a life she is proud of.
Notably missing from the book are huge info dumps on the magic system and intense training montages. There are also very few instances where we see Vhalla use her power. While the story did have its exciting moments, it didn’t ramp up to an insane climax. Aside from one action scene and some surprisingly violent occurrences, the book is pretty chill. Even without a flashy ending, I am curious to see where the story goes from here. I haven’t been able to anticipate where Kova is taking Vhalla’s story, so there are going to be some awesome surprises along the way.
I am often guilty of chasing the next book that will shock my senses and utterly destroy me. However, I fully appreciated the breezy approach Elise Kova took in Air Awakens. It was like gliding through an entertaining, low-stakes fantasy with just the right amount of turbulence to keep things interesting. If you need a break from the book grind, hide in the library alongside Vhalla for a while.
Rating: Air Awakens – 7.5/10