Book Review

Untethered Sky

Untethered Sky

  • Author: Fonda Lee
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: April 11, 2023
  • Publisher: Tordotcom

Thank you to NetGalley and Tordotcom for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: mention of miscarriage, blood, death, death of a child, death of a parent, gore

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

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.

I fell in love with Lee’s writing throughout the Greenbone Saga, and I honestly didn’t even need to read the summary to know I wanted to read this book. So I went into this kind of blindly, aside from knowing that this involved rocs and riding them. Even so, I was surprised at how much plot, character, and emotion she was able to pack into a 160-page novella.

We get to meet Ester and see her early years, which have a major influence on her path in life. I liked seeing how she had to work to bond with Zahra, and the story doesn’t shy away from all the nitty gritty aspects of working to train a wild animal. So often, stories just gloss over all the hard work that goes into training, and it could have been easy to do in a short novella, but Lee made the choice to talk about Ester having to constantly work to reinforce behaviors, clean out the enclosure, and get Zahra used to her presence, yet still walk the fine line of knowing that Zahra is a wild animal at heart and can tear her apart at any given moment, especially if her training isn’t up to par. 

I also enjoyed seeing how Ester slowly began to form relationships with some of the ruhkers (people who train and work with rocs) around her. She forms close bonds with two people around her, and gets to know them and enjoy their company despite the fact that she seems to be a loner at heart. The two people that she becomes closest to play an integral part in the story, and their personalities are so different, and Lee managed to create well-rounded characters that popped off the page. 

At heart, Ester’s dream of becoming a ruhker was to avenge her family and save others from suffering the same pain that she did. She was single-minded in her focus, which became more like an obsession as time went on. Being dedicated wasn’t a bad thing, since it allowed her to be good at what she did, although it did have some consequences for her. Ultimately, it came down to what she was willing to pay to achieve her goal. This was a fantastic story—fast-paced, intriguing, and with some plot twists that I loved, even though the foreshadowing let me know it was probably going to break my heart a little bit. Overall, this just cemented the fact that I’ll continue to read whatever Lee writes, regardless of what it is, since it’s guaranteed to be a winner in my eyes.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 7

Who is an author that you’ll automatically read a book from, even without reading the summary?

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