Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.

None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.

Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.


I was drawn to this book initially because of the cover, which is dead set gorgeous. Also, because the dystopia/post-apocalyptic genre is still one that draws me, despite the market in YA being somewhat saturated.

There is a lot to praise about this book. The sense of setting is very well grounded – even in the midst of the world falling apart after an alien invasion, it’s very recognisably Australian. Sexuality and gender are presented in all of their facets and without ever being an “issue”. The protagonist, Madeleine, is well-rounded and feels very real from the moment she steps onto the page.

I did have some issues, however. There are a handful of scenes that feel very rushed – many of the action scenes, in particular – and could have benefited from clearer editing. At times, I didn’t quite feel the emotional impact of the events – it felt as though the teens were taking things far too easily, when most people would have been melting down.

I did like the juxtaposition of some of the normal teenage feelings and activities with the apocalyptic scenario – it made total sense to me that teens would be fighting for their world, while still doing the normal things like developing crushes and navigating their first relationships.

I did feel like the book ended far too quickly, and honestly found that the epilogue was extraneous. I would have preferred for everything to be left hanging a bit, rather than everyone essentially getting their happily ever afters.

Definitely worth a read, especially if you’re interested in what’s happening in self publishing.