Katharine McGee’s The Dazzling Heights

I received The Dazzling Heights from a Goodreads giveaway and the following is my honest review. This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Note that my review is not spoiler free. Please do not read beyond this point if you wish to remain unspoiled.

In continuation of the story from The Thousandth Floor, we find ourselves following Avery, Leda, Rylin, Watt, and a new character Calliope. The aftermath of Eris’s death at the end of the first book has caused extreme tension between all characters, and Leda is trying her hardest to control and anticipate all situations. There is forbidden romance between Avery and Atlas being tried, Leda blackmailing everyone to keep her secret (pushing Eris off the Tower to her death), Watt and his secret and illegal quant Nadia manipulated by Leda to do her bidding, more revealed about Atlas’s travels when he disappeared and how he and Calliope are acquainted, Calliope’s conning background and where she truly came from, and Rylin’s struggles to navigate the Tower’s highlier world. With subtlety and brilliance, Katharine McGee weaves the character’s lives together in this sequel full of richness in wealth, lies and deceptions, world-building, and plot. The Dazzling Heights is such a well done YA sci-fi: the inclusion of the advanced technologies and technology driven lifestyle natural; the casual references to historical, social, and industrial events that shaped this world and led to the building of the Tower and the environment that bred these characters; the way she shifts the story’s motion with tact and ease. As an aspiring YA sci-fi writer, I will definitely be holding onto these books and re-reading them for prime examples of how a YA sci-fi should be done. McGee is brilliant in the rise and fall of tensions between characters, and there were several pivotal moments where you could feel your heartbeat change from the shifting of character’s emotional and mental states in response to something that occurred. And let’s not forget her deft language, describing situations of varying complexities without droning, without drowning the reader in potentially boring scientific terminology. Even if you aren’t scientifically inclined, you can still enjoy this book without having difficulty following; the sci-fi elements are part of the world-building and they are very accessible, acting as a backdrop to the unfolding drama. I would almost say her approach to sci-fi is touch-and-go: she focuses for a split second upon something high-tech or advanced, let’s it be known, then she immediately moves on and shows its significance to the story–she never lingers.

I will admit that I was uncertain about Calliope when she was first introduced. Part of me missed Eris’s perspective, but that story arc came to an end for obvious reasons; not to mention I really enjoyed getting to know Mariel, someone who lived in the lowest parts of the Tower and seemed content in her existence there. With those thoughts in mind, Calliope, the daughter in a globe-trotting con artist duo, wasn’t a character I thought I could grow to like. Her entire persona was a farce, created to deceive, even if we the readers were given the truth as the story continued. But lo and behold, despite my ever-deepening hate of lying and trickery, she slowly won me over. Her flashbacks to growing up first amidst highbrow low level British royalty, who tried their damnedest to maintain their air of superiority and importance, then her saddened thoughts at how she had missed out on a stable, “normal” upbringing when she recalled certain moments from her life as a constantly traveling swindler–I couldn’t help but feel for the girl. Who was I to judge her for a life that she did not choose, for the only life she had come to know? Even though I didn’t like what she had done and that she planned to con Atlas, the wealthiest young man she had ever come across, I grew to like her. She may have never had a proper education as a teenager, but she was resourceful and intelligent in her assessment of situations and the way she mentally worked through problems, having learned the ways of the world through traveling and trial-and-error. Though her mother raised her to deceive and put on a disguise of beauty, Calliope was equally smart.

I do want to focus on my love of the character and world development for a moment, because I’m still in awe. Like I said above, she incorporates the sci-fi elements into the world-building. However, McGee furthers the building of this futuristic world by giving us glimpses into even more parts of it. I thought I knew the Tower and its different amenities and aspects, but I was so wrong. We travel with the different characters, experiencing different floors, learning that there is a whole Farm from midTower to the upper floors that supplies produce, that there is so much to explore. And with the characters, nothing is straightforward, cut and dry. Everything is a mess of grey, and it is hard to tell by the end who is the villain–they each have their flaws, their redeeming features, their low and high points. They became real, their emotions raw and utterly human.

Is Leda the bad person? Is Avery as perfect as everyone perceives her? Is love enough? Does Watt despise Leda? Could Avery and Leda ever be friends again? Everything that had been established in the first book–expect every bit of it to be turned upside down and shaken, because everything you thought you knew changes. I give The Dazzling Heights a bitchin’ 5/5 stars.

You can find order information for both The Thousandth Floor and The Dazzling Heights at the following site links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Book Depository. (There are other book retailers that carry the series. These are the retailers I purchase from most often.

If you are interested in visiting Katherine McGee’s website, click here.

If you are interested in checking out another YA sci-fi that I have enjoyed, check out H.A. Swain’s Gifted. It does not ring the same as The Thousandth Floor and The Dazzling Heights, with very different premises and incorporating advanced technologies differently, but I enjoyed it just as much.


Written by Jenn Edwards.

Website link: http://iwillseizetheday.weebly.com/bitchinreads/katharine-mcgees-the-dazzling-heights