A few years ago, while I was working and writing for MuggleNet, I had the pleasure to read and review C.L. Gaber’s first book in the Ascenders Saga – Ascenders: High School for the Recently Departed. Though that review no longer has my name on it (because I no longer write for the site), it led me to my friendship with the Saga’s author. You can read my review on MuggleNet here.
Though it has been a few years, I’ve FINALLY read the second installment in this wild series – and I can honestly say I was not disappointed!
This review contains minor spoilers, so if you do not want to be spoiled for these two books, do not read any further!
To recap, in book one, Ascenders: High School for the Recently Departed, readers meet Walker Callaghan, a 17-year-old future journalist who wakes up believing her mother has uprooted her poverty-stricken Chicago lifestyle and moved the two of them to a quaint Michigan town. Walker can’t understand the sudden luxuries surrounding her – how everything that should cost money in town is free, how schooling can consist of no tests and homework, and the overall happiness that exists in this strange universe. However, rude boy and next-door-neighbor Daniel Reid, who is the guardian of his three younger siblings and is covered in tattoos and drives a Harley, informs her of the seemingly impossible.
There are no rules in the Midst – Walker’s new home – except for one: you cannot go back to the living realm under any circumstances. The consequences for doing so are extreme.
However, as time progresses, Walker finds herself falling for the bad-boy-next-door and gaining a new family with his younger siblings, and she and Daniel now live by their own rules – including plotting to break the one rule of this strange realm. They must go back to retrieve Daniel’s youngest brother who is stuck in the living realm as a ghost. And in doing so, and by simply existing in this alternate universe, Walker finds herself having the time of her life – even though she’s no longer living.
The second book picks up where book one ended – Daniel and Walker have returned from the living realm and have retrieved Daniel’s youngest brother, Bobby. Dr. King – the Academy’s principal, however, never made it back with them – he is stuck in the living realm with the demons that haunt the ghosts stuck there. Daniel and Walker arrive home to a happy family and relieved friends, and all is going well for them.
Until after Christmastime, they receive life sentences at ITT (the Midst’s equivalent to prison) for breaking the one rule of their world. Daniel and Walker are uprooted from their pleasant lives and sent to prison – to be horribly mistreated, starved, beaten, and overall abused.
A strange twist of fate somehow allows both Daniel and Walker to be free of ITT after seven months of captivity – they are freed to do the impossible. They, along with other inhabitants in the Midst, are being sent on a death-mission to New York City to retrieve a rare piece of history – left behind by Albert Einstein – aptly named The Hiding. And, of course, the odds are stacked completely against Daniel and Walker ever returning back home to their beloved family and friends.
But the two are determined – not only will they beat the odds stacked against them, but they will defy everyone who stands in the way of disrupting peace in the Midst – with hands intertwined and with a dedicated and unique pack of friends standing by their sides.
What really intrigued me about this second installment is the new characters and schools that were introduced. In the first book, experiencing ITT made me slightly uncomfortable – as I’m sure being in actual prison would be! However, in this book, even though ITT was nowhere near pleasant, I enjoyed the new environment and learning about the inhabitants and how life at this strange place actually worked in comparison to the easy life at the Academy. I will admit, though, it was difficult to read about the abuse that Walker and Daniel suffered during their seven-month stay. I was incredibly thankful when they returned back home!
Another place I really enjoyed reading about was Freak U. Though the students here are described as freaks, for lack of other words, with extreme oddities, the environment reminded me of Hogwarts, except on a tropical and overgrown island, and I wanted to climb in the pages and visit with Walker and Daniel.
I especially liked learning more about the death stories – specifically the Claires, who are described as beautiful, ruthless, and quite dead 17-year-old quads who each have a differing clairvoyant gift. Though they were creepy and rude and completely bizarre, reading about their death stories and their overall history was one of the most compelling parts of the book! I know C.L. Gaber has plans of a Claires novella being published soon, and I cannot wait to dive into that!
I also really enjoyed Walker’s character development in this book. She becomes stronger, smarter, wittier, and tougher with each page, and I can only imagine how much stronger she will become in the third book – once the crew actually embarks on the mission to New York City. She’s so spunky and speaks her mind without fear of the consequences, and I found myself wishing I could’ve been like Walker when I was 17!
Another character who surprised me this book was Daniel’s younger brother Peter. In book one, I was such a Daniel-girl – and while I still love our bad-boy-extraordinaire, his younger brother Peter really stepped up in this book to become one of my favorites. His shyness is still relevant and apparent, but it’s as if he’s grown up page by page, even though he’s still the same age because he’s dead. I really enjoyed his scenes and watching him become his own man.
Also, let’s talk about the one character who blew me away – CASS. He’s set up to be the other love interest for Walker – even though Walker has no interest in him…yet. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about Cass, but I LOVED him. I messaged C.L. Gaber multiple times to tell her how much I loved him and how conflicted I felt about loving him (because I also love Daniel and Walker together)! Cass is precious – sweet, caring, protective, and ALIVE. Most of all, he’s helping Walker’s mother with her rehabilitation and looking after her well-being, which completely struck my heart and made me weep internally! I can’t wait to read more of him in the future!
The celebrity appearances in these books are insane – I truly look forward to which one will appear next. Celebrities that I’ve noticed (and I’m sure I’m missing some) are:
- Alan Rickman
- Paul Walker
- Elizabeth Taylor
- Kurt Cobain
- Steve Jobs
- Richard Nixon
- Freddie Mercury
- Julia Child
- Heath Ledger
- Walter Payton
- Lizzie Borden
- Marie Curie
- Stephen Hawking
- Johnnie Cochran
- Dick Clark
- Louisa May Alcott
- Christopher Reeve
- Gene Roddenberry
- Neil Armstrong
- Sally Ride
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Johnny Cash
- Bruce Lee
These books get more and more intense with each installment, so I can only imagine how crazy and wild the third book will be! I can’t wait to start reading it and to dive back in to this world. C.L. Gaber is not only the sweetest and kindest human, she has such a vivid imagination that translates so well into her books. As I said when I wrote for MuggleNet, these books are unlike any other books I’ve ever read! While I’m reading these books, I forget where I am and am transported to Gaber’s world of mischief, mayhem, and overall complete madness!
Ascenders: Skypunch ends right before the true adventure begins, and I am so pumped to puck up the third installment!
You can purchase these books on Amazon using the links below:
Until next time. Happy reading!