Life of a Simple Reader

Read-to-Review: Golden Skies (The New Order #1) by Juan Zapata

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A man-god and his army of religious zealots swarmed the South nine years ago. As a child, Malik watched severed heads falling, blood spurting onto concrete, and his dear grandfather run through by a black sword.

But there’s peace…somewhere. At least that’s what Malik tells himself as his body is ripped apart by whips at a religious conversion camp. That’s what his best friend whispers as he frantically creates new force jetpacks to rescue Malik.

Yet when war bursts through the skies, and the sky troopers, assassins, and heroes fall—when the world comes crashing down—Malik Zzoha stands strong amidst the sands, infidel of the state number one.

Golden Skies is the first book in the The New Order trilogy. (From: Goodreads)

***Actual rating: 5+++/5 Wings-of-Heaven Stars***

But what use were the heavens when you burned them down?

I used to believe that nothing will ever surpass the originality and level of brutality in young adult fiction like Throne of Glass, Half-Blood (The Covenant), or The Winner’s Curse; however, after reading Golden Skies, I realized how wrong I was. Golden Skies pretty much combined all the most exciting and gut-wrenching elements in the above series while adding lots of irresistibly delicious twists, turning the entire book into a masterpiece.

The story was set in a world controlled by a tyrant, Mujadin, who firmly believed in Safad, the root of all evil. On the contrary, Mujadin’s own son, Malik, was nothing but a rebel, having faith in the opposite God, Leiol, and always disobeyed his father in public without a second thought whenever he got the chance.

”…Leiol speaks about how mortals must treat each other with kindness and respect in order for there to be justice in the world. What matters most is one’s deeds, that their light outweighs their darkness. When we die, Leiol judges us and determines whether he’ll allow us into a new, blissful world of peace or have us reborn on Certamen until we redeem ourselves.”

After being publicly accused of his wrongdoing by his son, Mujadin’s guards brought Malik to a death camp/prison somewhere called Sempoi for better torturing and punishing. Everything happened in that place was what I imagined the-worst-nightmare-came-true.

The soft touch of clothes met my fingers, scattered bits of hardness within their folds. I squeezed them. Bones? My eyes grew wide and I fell backward, my heart thundering, my skin searing on the burning floor. I scrambled away from the poor soul who had been left here to die. Now I understood the presence of the knife. Suicide was an option if supposed faith in Safad wasn’t.

Mercifully, with the help of Malik’s newly-made friend, Alayne, in the prison, his days there weren’t as unbearable as they ought to be. What’s more, Alayne was practically Malik’s guardian angel in such darkness, making her my first favorite character in the whole story.

”You’re okay. It’s going to be okay…” she whispered, her blue eyes wide.
I closed my eyes and lay still. The pain pounded relentlessly in my head. The room spun. “You don’t have to lie…”
“I’m partly saying that to boost my own confidence; my life is linked to yours.”
I chuckled, coughing mid-way.

Just when I thought Malik and Alayne might develop something more than friendship during the difficult times, the author thoughtfully decided to give us a shattering twist that I DID NOT SEE COMING afterwards. Therefore, the bubbly pink atmosphere I felt (and naïvely pictured) evaporated all at once, leaving the story back to that torturous consequence of injustice once again.

Despite the misfortune of Malik’s life as a blasphemer, his supportive sister, Eliza, along with his best friend, Kafed, managed to help him escape—thanks to Kafed’s genius invention, the Wings of Heaven (a.k.a. jetpacks)—from the inhumanity inflicted by Mujadin’s assassins. Interestingly, Malik and his friends weren’t the only ones despising Mujadin; a group of people had been holding clandestine meetings for a while and they formed an indestructible army in the hope of overthrowing Mujadin’s tyranny.

Before reaching the end of the book, tons of people—mostly good ones and partly bad—died and some of my ex-favorite characters turned out to be the biggest traitors of all time, adding spice to the already-action-packed story once more. Although the uprising was quelled eventually, none of the rebels could breathe a sigh of relief because a more ferocious, more bloodthirsty army of elites were recruited, eliminating those who stood in their way of holding the reins of government.

Hence, the biggest challenge here was whether Malik—the Echoer of the Rebels AND the Savior of his hometown—could defeat this new enemy, become the real King, and let justice prevail, just as the old prophecy foretold, OR would he and his people be defeated in the battle that would surely come?

”…The offspring of a horrible tyrant is born to rise against him. This person endures agony and tribulations and survives where others have died since he’s gifted by Leiol to see his punishment rendered and establish a new order. From there, his duty is to bring continuous justice to the world.”

Aside from the well-thought-out plot, what I loved most about this book was definitely the characters . Even the secondary characters played a crucial role in the entire story, let alone the protagonists and antagonists. When Malik and his friends landed somewhere relatively safer than his hometown, they met Alayne’s teammates, coming to Malik’s rescue, and those people were truly…something else. Take Mujadin’s guards for another example, who would’ve guessed under his extreme control, his most trusted subordinate(s) would turn against him?

To my surprise, despite the fact that this book contained quite a lot of gory scenes and ugly facets of religious beliefs, there were still some funny banters among Malik’s friends and family.

Eliza rose to her feet. “I hope this doesn’t get you killed.”
He (Kafed) shrugged. “Malik is more likely to get killed than me at this point.”
I laughed. “Yep, that’s why I’ve even drafted my farewell. It’s mostly addressed to you though, Kafed.”
Eliza glared at me. “What, am I not worthy enough to be included?”
“Ehm. No.”

Ha! Both Eliza and Kafed had been the most loyal friends anyone could ever ask for and yet, Malik apparently thought differently between two of his best friends…

The door creaked open. “Malik?”
Kafed. He walked in with purpose, a vase of roses in his hand, and made his way toward me. We met each other’s eyes, and a silly grin formed on my best friend’s face. I found myself irresistibly following suit.
“Well, Malik. I brought you some exquisite…er, flowers. I thought they’d cheer you up. Look at these and not the mirror for a while, will ya?”

This one really cracked me up, no lie, and I’d kill for a hilarious friend like Kafed. Anyways, all I’m hoping is that the author won’t kill any of them off either by accident or on purpose—since my favorite characters had a tendency to die in this book—in the following sequels because I love them to death and it will certainly wreck me if they ceased to exist.

To sum up, Golden Skies was an extremely satisfying read for me. The plot design was perfect, the characters and background setting were flawless, and the entire pace of the story was really well done. Like I said before, this book was a splendid mixture of series like Throne of Glass, The Covenant, and The Winner’s Curse, with a touch of sci-fi elements and unforgettable religions, transforming a seemingly ordinary young adult sci-fi fantasy into a much more in-depth story. Thus, I cannot wait to read the next instalment and see what happen to my beloved characters. *fingers crossed*

Last but not least, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Golden Skies to everyone since it’s truly worthy of your time!!!

***Huge thanks to Owl Hollow Press and the author for sending me an e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.***

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