REVIEW: Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee
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.
Dear Ms. Lee,
I’ve found the Tor novellas and short stories to be a good way to try new-to-me authors. Our reviewer Janine has read and loved two of your “Jade” novels so your name was on my radar. The plot for “Untethered Sky” promised something different – Middle Eastern manticores and rocs.
Though it’s not specified, I believe the setting for the story is Persia as legends of manticores are more specific to it. Also satrapies are mentioned as the districts of this country. The first section of the novella is about Ester’s familial loss, and determination to earn a place at the Royal Mews and be assigned her own roc. Tedious descriptions of taming Zahra, cleaning up roc poop, and dreaming of becoming a mighty manticore hunter follow.
Over the years, Ester and Zahra bond – or bond as much as a wild roc is willing to accept a human keeper. Graphic and at times gruesome hunts ensue as the two go out with more seasoned teams and Zahra is trained. Royalty then sticks its nose into things and, as royalty is wont to do, messes things up in the end leading to loss and changes in life paths.
I’m sorry to say that I loved the idea of a new mythology but found the execution of the story to be flat. It was as if I were being held at arm’s length by it. I never really took to Ester or any of the other characters and even the manticore hunting scenes were dry and a let down. What should have been exciting with a main female character was more dull telling and frankly I was glad when I managed to finish it. C-
I was interested as well because of the premise, sorry to see the book may not have met the challenge, although I may still read it. Unfortunately, I felt the same about the first Jade book and haven’t continued with that series. There has to be a connection for me with something in the story and I never found it. Thanks for the review.
@Darlynne: I’d try reading a sample as that will probably be enough to tell you if the story will work for you or not. I kept hoping it would improve but it never did for me.
@Darlynne: As I said in my review (the next post), this isn’t at all like the Jade books,. The two works are so different that this might as well be a different author. Not saying you’ll like it, I’m really not sure. It’s slower and more muted than the Jade books, but also feels more assured.