ARC Review – Untethered Sky

Hello, everyone! After my teaser of the first lines of Untethered Sky this morning, I had to also drop this review today. 🙂 Anyone following me for a while probably knows by now that I am OBSESSED with the Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee. It is one of my favorite series ever. So, I was incredibly excited to be granted an advanced copy of this new novella set in a completely different world. Let’s get to my *totally unbiased* thoughts on Lee’s most recent work!

From World Fantasy Award-winning author Fonda Lee comes Untethered Sky, an epic fantasy fable about the pursuit of obsession at all costs.

A Most Anticipated in 2023 Pick for Polygon | Book Riot | Paste Magazine

Ester’s family was torn apart when a manticore killed her mother and baby brother, leaving her with nothing but her father’s painful silence and a single, overwhelming need to kill the monsters that took her family.

Ester’s path leads her to the King’s Royal Mews, where the giant rocs of legend are flown to hunt manticores by their brave and dedicated ruhkers. Paired with a fledgling roc named Zahra, Ester finds purpose and acclaim by devoting herself to a calling that demands absolute sacrifice and a creature that will never return her love. The terrifying partnership between woman and roc leads Ester not only on the empire’s most dangerous manticore hunt, but on a journey of perseverance and acceptance.

***Thank you to tordotcom for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I loved everything about this novella, the characters, the story, the setting, and the writing. All of it. My only complaint is that I wanted more than a novella’s length to explore these characters and their world. I rarely want to annotate while reading, but I found myself itching to highlight so much of the beautiful and insightful prose. There’s just something so special about Lee’s voice. Her writing is somehow both matter of fact and emotionally evocative, which shines here just as much as it did in the Green Bone Saga.

The premise of the story is fairly simple but really, really cool. Ester’s family was murdered by a manticore, and she becomes obsessed with being a ruhker so that she can dedicate her life to killing the horrid, man-eating beasts. The book follows her journey of training her roc and becoming a successful ruhker until tragedy strikes and changes everything. Of course, there were plenty of moments that completely ripped my heart out, which seems to be Lee’s specialty as this point, and I was surprised by how much I came to care about these characters so quickly.

The rocs were so interesting, and the relationship between roc and ruhker was a fascinating one to examine. It allowed for the exploration of obsessive, one-sided love, as well as the process of accepting the loss of something, possibly everything, important to you. I was torn between loving the relationship between Ester and Zahra and being horrified by the brutality of Zahra being ripped away from her natural habitat and manipulated into servitude by the person claiming to love her. I wasn’t expecting so much nuance to be packed into such a tight story, but somehow Lee managed it.

Overall, this was a beautiful, quick story that fantasy fans will most likely enjoy. I would have loved to get even more of it, especially the world-building, but I have no complaints about what we did get. Therefore, I rate this one 5 out of 5 stars, which should come as no shock to anyone who knows how much I love Lee’s work.

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