Blightborn (The Heartland Trilogy)
Written by: Chuck Wendig
Published by: Skyscape
Blightborn is the follow up to Chuck Wendig’s excellent YA novel Under The Empyrean Sky that chronicles the lives of Cael McAvoy and his family and friends as they navigate the perils of living in the Heartland; a middle America of an alternate universe. The Heartland is corn, endless fiends of corn, over which the floating cities of the Empyrean hover.
Wendig once described his series as “cornpunk” and it’s an apt description. Empyrean pseudo-steampunk technology exists alongside the archaic rural living of the Heartlanders as they grow and process the corn that exists all around them.
After the events of the first book which saw Cael’s life turned upside down the second book finds Cael and his friends Rigo and Lane fleeing from the Empyrean police as the consequences of the first book catch up with them. At the same time Cael’s once girlfriend Gwennie finds herself on board one of the Empyrean floating cities and learning that the high life is not necessarily a good life.
Wendig knows how to write a great adventure tale, and he takes care to make each of the point of view characters a well rounded personality. Each of the characters develops as the story does, and the end of Blightborn finds some of them very different people to the ones they were at the start of the book. Gwennie in particular is forced to evolve beyond her beginnings, and she is such a good character I’d happily read a spin of series about her alone.
As with the first book, the corn deserves special mention. This isn’t corn you would ever buy at the supermarket, it’s grown as a biofuel, and in order for it to survive in the harsh environs of the Heartland it’s become something else. The corn adds an ever present sense of menace to Blightborn that tinges every other part of the story. It becomes downright Lovecraftian towards the end as we learn more about the wider world that Cael, Gwennie and their friends live in.
There are some nods in Blightborn to the video game Bioshock: Infinite. The Empyrean cities could easily be a stand in for the games floating city of Columbia, although to be fair this comes across as an homage rather than outright copying, especially once the story gets into the deeper levels of the Empyrean empire.
Blightborn is a thoughtful book, despite the copious explosions and bloodletting. The consequences of violence feature throughout, as do the many faces and consequences of love. It never feels like Wendig gets on his soapbox though, these themes tie in perfectly with the rest of the story.
The one downside of Blightborn is that it feels short. It’s not particularly, but the story rockets along at such a pace that when it’s over it feels like there should be more to go to. Readers will have to wait for the final book in Wendig’s trilogy to find out just how bad things can get in the Heartland.
Written By Andrew Jack
Find the Heartland Trilogy on Amazon!