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Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy, #1)
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Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy #1)

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  664 ratings  ·  187 reviews
Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It's the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow? And the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it. As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day a...more
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Skyscape (first published January 1st 2013)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dan Schwent
In the Heartland, genetically modified corn has overrun everything and people struggle just to survive. Young Cael McAvoy is the leader of a salvage crew, finding scraps of a bygone age to sell to bring in money for his home town, Boxelder. But when Cael and his crew find some forbidden plants growing wild amongst the corn, things quickly spin out of control...

Chuck Wendig's foray into YA dystopia is an interesting tale. It reminds me of Ship Breaker, to an extent. A genetically modified corn sp...more
Frankie Brown
I liked Under the Empyrean Sky -- it entertained me, it was thought-provoking in many places, and it offered a compelling, disturbing view of a future America overrun by mutant corn.

This would have been a solid four-star review, if not for one major problem: the book's treatment of women. This particularly upset me, because as an avid reader of Chuck Wendig's blog, it was my understanding that he's aware of the mistreatment of women in literature.

The chapters told from women's point of view don'...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
This was an e-ARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I thought it was really fantastic, but honestly, I'm also a little lost as to how to talk about it. To understand, I guess you have to be at least a little familiar with Chuck Wendig and his writing. If you're not, then you're in for a treat...or a shock. Or both.

I only just became a fan of the author myself, having recently read The Blue Blazes and Blackbirds. I liked them a lot, and especially adore...more
This review was originally posted on Avid Reviews:

Under the Empyrean Sky is a dystopian novel and the first installment in the Heartland Trilogy. Though the dystopian future has recently become an extremely popular trope, Wendig’s novel stands apart from the rest with a very unique vision of our planet’s future. The story holds an environmental message at its heart, and tackles the issues of genetic modification, the use of pesticides, and the dangers of lett...more
Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews)

Cael McAvoy and his friends live in the Heartland, where corn grows in spades, but Heartland’s people can’t eat it. In fact, some would say the corn is alive. One thing is for sure, it fuels everything that the Empyreans need, in their kingdom in the clouds, while Heartland’s citizens survive on scraps, because the land can’t grow anything else. Cael is, however, captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, and they’re pretty darn good at what they do, even if the m...more
Aug 19, 2013 Reader-ramble rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone because I'm totally a Wendig fangirl.
Shelves: must-reads
What did you say? Wendig calls it cornpunk?

(Scratches chin.) I like this. I like this a lot. This is going in a direction I can get behind.

These days, dystopia YA is all the rage. One is born every time someone farts. Only half of them fit the definition of dystopia. (For definition, see my Divergent review.) Most of the ones I read don't make me bat an eye because I'm used to reading ones that have pretty much come true. You know, 1984 as brought to you by the internet, microchips, and the NSA....more
(Full review here:

If you’re looking for something that isn’t your typical YA SFF novel, then this is a good bet. The writing flows smoothly, the story’s easily to follow and very engaging, with characters that feel real enough that they could easily be people who live down the street from you (assuming their house is filled with aggressive corn…). It’s a set-up to what suspect with end up bigger and more complex as the trilogy goes on, and happily so, be...more
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
Review is below the PSA. The PSA does not reflect upon the book which is really quite good.

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Just when I thought there would never be a good dystopian again Under the Empyrean Sky comes along. This is a solid book - well written, perfectly paced with real life-or-death consequences. While it doesn't do anything groundbreaking with the genre, everything it does it does very well.

The thing about survival, Pop always says, is that it's not about who's fastest or strongest but who can adapt to chang...more
There was a brief period of timing following the publication of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma during which I was keenly aware of corn. Corn is a staple of industrial agriculture. If you read the ingredients of almost any packaged food, you will find there corn, or some corn by-product. Researchers can perform testing on skeletons to determine how much corn the deceased ate during his or her lifetime. Modern Americans far exceed the consumption rates of the Maya, who ate a lot of corn....more
This is my first YA book, and any fans of Chuck Wendig who might be dubious of picking it up because of the YA tag, stop worrying. The YA tag does not diminish Chuck's style, everything you have come to expect is there. The grim reality, the sharp descriptions, the strong characters that fit and all add to the flow.

This is the first in a trilogy set in a Cornpunk future where the land is covered by an invasive strain of carnivorous corn. The Heartland is a grim and foreboding place, its people m...more
Emma Rosloff
While I’d heard praise for Chuck Wendig’s blog, I hadn’t actually heard much about his book, Under the Empyrean Sky. In fact, it was the cover that drew me in (as superficial as that sounds) as I was browsing through the Young Adult section of the library. Gotta hand it to the artist — it’s a great cover. Really sets the tone. I saw Wendig’s world in all the same colors: yellow, orange and brown.

My favorite thing about this book? The worldbuilding. Wendig paints a vivid picture, creating a world...more
So, I just read this in seven hours.

I wasn't -quite- sure what I was getting into. Chuck Wendig is the guy behind and the jerk who brought us Changeling: The Lost and Hunter: The Vigil (I LOVE YOU CHUCK - BUT WHY). So I'm very familiar with his -not-storytelling- voice, but was slightly leary going into his -totally-storytelling- voice.

What we have here is a YA story about the evils of mucking about too much in bioengineering plants, the class divide, and The Man telling us wha...more
Richard Guion
It's a solid yarn about a group of 18 year olds living in a dystopian world, corn huskers living on the Earth while the rich people living in floating cities. The book really hooked me in the first 1/3 of the story - Cael, Gwennie, and their other friends were interesting kids. In the middle the plot sagged a bit - I almost gave up as I didn't like Cael's actions too much. But the story course corrected and the plot accelerated very quickly after that, it was a real page turner to read until the...more
The good thing about this book is that it doesn't slow down and there is enough material in the book that will keep readers waiting for the next two books. Book two, Blightborn comes out in July this year and it's going to be as exciting as this one, I am sure.

All in all, it was a very fast read. I just zipped through the book in a few hours.

What is the book about? A lot of things, growing up, government control, corn, environment, family, love, standing up for friends, family and all the things...more
Funny thing about unlikeable or likeable characters. They can make or break a story depending on what kind of story you’re trying to tell. Generally for me, unlikeable is preferable. I’ll take a petty, selfish, angry protagonist over an angel any day of the week.

So Under the Empyrean Sky has left me confused. I did not like Cael and it kept me from liking the rest of the book. I understood where he was coming from, why he thought the things that he did. I just could never bring myself to really...more
This was an interesting read for me because I loved the dystopian feel of this world but I was severely irritated by the concepts of class warfare, of arranged marriages, and the feeling of the characters being able to achieve more were it not for their lot in life. And that irritation was a good thing. Because it's exactly what Cael McAvoy, the protagonist in this book, is feeling himself.

The Empyrean government and their elite live on extravagant flotillas stocked with all the comforts and lu...more
EDIT 3/28/14 - I was horrified to discover that I hadn't purchased this book for my Kindle but had only borrowed it from the Kindle Lenders list. I've rectified that lack, gotten the audiobook and have pre-ordered the sequel, Blightborn as well.

EDIT 10/21/13 - I am now thinking that I should have given this book 5 stars and am changing my rating. Why? Because I cannot get it out of my head! I keep wondering about the next installment and going to see if there is any info on it. I read this book...more
All Things Urban Fantasy
Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy

When I claimed UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY for review I had no idea this was a young adult novel. I simply saw Chuck Wendig’s name and, since I absolutely loved THE BLUE BLAZES, I quickly claimed it. When I saw that it was young adult I was a little worried. Would Wendig’s style be so watered down I wouldn’t enjoy it? I’m pleased to say that wasn’t the case at all and UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY is a great read for both adult fans of Wendig’s writing and for the...more
Kathy (Kindle-aholic)
I've read and enjoyed several of Wendig's adult books, so when I learned about this YA trilogy, I knew it would be on my list. I expected good action, interesting characters, and the author's unique approach to dialogue. Yes, Virginia, there are swears in these pages, but honestly, there were stronger words in Goonies (my earliest recollection of children swearing in film). There is violence, some graphic, and a sexual relationship that is not described in any graphic detail. Now that the housek...more
Noor Azeem
See more of my reviews at We Live and Breathe Books

I picked up an uncorrected proof of Under the Empyrean Sky, which I tend to call The Corn Book, at BookExpo America back in June, and finally got around to reading it now. The description on the back cover looked interesting enough, but I didn’t quite know what to expect with this.

If I had to sum up The Corn Book in one word, it would be weird.

Under the Empyrean Sky was undoubtedly weird. It was strange. It was odd. But that does not mean it was...more
Mars Dorian
Heartland is a sci-fantasy YA set in a dystopian world where the (literally) upper elite dominates over a suppressed farming society.

In-between the struggle is Cael, a teenager who's tired of sticking it to the man and makes a discovery that changes the course of the Heartland's destiny.

World Building :
First of all, I love the world building and premise. The idea of an artificially created corn that not only is unhealthy but also acts as a viral, killing organism is brilliant.
(Not to mention the...more
Eoghann Irving
Billed as the first part of the Heartland Trilogy, _Under the Empyrean Sky_ starts slow. We're not told when or where this exactly is set but we're left to assume that it is the American heartland at some point in the future.

And the tone of the first half of the book is certainly reminiscent of the "kid coming of age in small town america books" that are not uncommon. Chuck Wendig treads a fine line of building this dystopian future where those in the "heartland" are little more than slaves for...more
Online Eccentric Librarian

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Under the Empyrean Sky is a topical read born from the latest headlines of GM modified agriculature and popularity of dystopian YA novels. Although solidly written, it can't help but feel like another retread of poor beleaguered post apocalyptic souls who will have to fight against the wealthier overlords in a life or death battle to free themselves from their subsistence.

Cael McAvoy lives in a small villiage desperately...more
Wyatt Packard
Under the Empyrean Sky starts like many dystopian novels do, with little information given to the reader. As you read you learn that the book is set in the future Midwest where Empyreans live on floating cities in the sky while forcing the Heartlander to grow corn that has been so genetically modified that it has become an invasive species. Cael is a seventeen year old scavenger and the captain of his own hover ship crew. Him and his friends find long lost or broken down items to sell for the ne...more
Liz Neering
Wow. I feel like I just took a master class in pacing. This book grabs you from the opening paragraphs and never lets go. It's intense. The stakes are always high and getting higher. There are consequences even for well-intentioned actions. There are very real struggles here to cheer very real characters through.

There's also swears, violence, mutant corn, class warfare, and hoverboats. So what are you waiting for?
I thought I was done with dystopian, but UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY drew me in. The premise is scarily close to home -- industrial agribusiness gone horribly wrong. The underclass scratches a dirt-poor living harvesting genetically modified corn while the upperclass lives in comfort on flotillas in the sky. Chuck Wendig's voice is as engaging as ever.

However, this book felt slightly unfulfilling, a series of intertwining vines reaching for the sun instead of a single stalk. Like a flywheel being wou...more
Lance Schaubert
When I give five stars, it means things.

It means I learned something new and increased my vocabulary. It means I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish and seldom looked up. It means I grew not only as a reader but •as a writer• while reading.

It also means that the book in question occupies weird space that no other book, as of this moment, occupies. That's the case with Little Drummer Girl. That's the case with Harry Potter 7. That's the case for me with JVG. And it's the case here....more
Chuck Wendig is a powerful-good writer. He makes words do good things to me. Gives me a funny feeling on the inside.

And as such, I hold him to a higher standard than I do most any other writer of genre I can think of. And he continues to impress.

This book is pretty different. In a future where the world is overrun by corn, and civilization exists only in the large flotilla of floating city-states in the sky, folks living on the earth are third world inhabitants. Mostly forgotten, and treated wi...more
Man, the things this book made me feel was too much, and unexpected. I like Cael well enough, can see his motives behind his actions. But the boy is a bit of a raging misogynist (view spoiler). Most of the people in this book are just that. With their claiming of women as 'theirs' and whatnot. The love triangle? It makes my knees ache, but it made me feel the rage Cael felt, which is one of my favourite things...more
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Chuck Wendig is a novelist, a screenwriter, and a freelance penmonkey.
He has contributed over two million words to the roleplaying game industry, and was the developer of the popular Hunter: The Vigil game line (White Wolf Game Studios / CCP).

He, along with writing partner Lance Weiler, is a fellow of the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriter's Lab (2010). Their short film, Pandemic, will show at th...more
More about Chuck Wendig...
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