The writing in this book is beautiful. More than beautiful. It’s the kind of book where you need to pause and reread so you can hear the words a second time. There were parts I needed to say out loud because the phrasing was so good. It became a tactile experience for me – the cadence paired with alliteration and consonance and assonance created a flow and I needed to feel the words in my mouth. It was gorgeous poetry in prose form and even as I was pulled into the story I still needed to slow down to enjoy and marvel at the writing.
The plot itself is fantastic. It follows a classic folklore motif and was comfortable without being clichéd. Pico is a lonely library and poet, sick with love for the girl he cannot have. He was born without wings, and Sisi is blessed with them. The two have some time together, but Sisi realizes Pico will never be able to give her what the air and the ocean and the sky does, and she leaves him to his books and poems.
Lovesick, Pico packs a few books and journeys into the land beyond. He follows the promise of The Book of Flying. If he reads it, he’ll grow wings. With his wings, he’ll be able to win Sisi back and have his love and the air and the sky. He’ll be worthy of her and of all the winged ones.
The folklore journey is wonderfully followed. As he travels further and further away from the sea, he meets people who are on journeys of their own. His quest is told through their stories and each section is based on the strangers’ tales without becoming its own separate book. The overlap is incredibly skillful and Miller takes these stories and weaves them into Pico’s journey.
These new characters and friends have amazing tales of their own. There is a lot of heartbreak and longing. Each character is severely broken and they all want Pico to be successful so that their own misery and mistakes will be somehow forgiven. There is a lot of pain in every page, and yet Pico brings so much hope. When he falters it’s even more upsetting because he is representing all the others’ failures. Again, Miller takes these characters and makes their faults build up Pico’s strengths. They need him to succeed. They need to know he’s out there on his path and completing his quest. They need something good and perfect and his love and dedication to Sisi is a gift. It’s amazing, but it is not neat and tidy. This is not a sweet bedtime tale for little ones.
As he gets closer and closer to Morning Town and the book that might not even be real, I wondered if Sisi was worthy of this quest. I wondered if he would decide he was better without her. I wondered if it would end the way he hoped and they’d live happily ever after. I wondered if he’d get his wings or not. I wondered if he’d even return home or if he’d find a new home and a new life. I absolutely loved every step of his journey, even when he stopped for too long and lost his way.
And a wonderful bonus! Keith Miller’s new book is out and I cannot wait to get it in my hands.