A Fistful of Sky is the story of Gypsum LaZelle, who comes from a magical family. Each child goes through transition in their early teens and receives the ability to do magic. However, Gypsum doesn’t go through transition. After several years of adjusting to her life as the mundane member of her family, she unexpectedly goes through transition, and receives the power of cursing. The only magic she can do is to perform curses, and if she doesn’t use her power regularly, it turns inward and attacks her own body.
A Fistful of Sky is an interesting story. The siblings, parents, and assorted relatives of the LaZelle clan form a cast of colorful characters that form a web of conflicting allegiances around Gypsum as she struggles to learn how to cope with her new powers. The relationship between Gypsum and her mother was a source of tension throughout the novel, and irritatingly, there wasn’t a resolution to the sustained conflict between the two characters. There was also a mystical encounter with a presence in the ocean that was never explained or linked to the plot in a meaningful way. The lack of resolution to these two elements left the ending of the book feeling incomplete.
Another problem is that the novel suffers from a lack of identity. The material in the book is too mature for it to be considered a YA novel, but the characterization lacks the depth and maturity for it to be an adult fantasy. This uneasy dualism also undermines the main character. She is supposed to be in her early twenties, but talks and acts like she is in her mid-teens. Her ongoing angst about her new power left the pace of the book feeling a little slow.
A Fistful of Sky was an intriguing novel because I was always interested in what Gypsum would do with her power. But the problems with the characterization and tone left me feeling detached from the characters and action.