An excellent stand-alone novella from the award-winning author of the Green Bone saga
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 rukhers. 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.
Untethered Sky is a stand-alone fantasy novella about ambition and falconry. And massive eagles (rocs). While never losing sight of the human story to be told, this is nevertheless a novella that packs more of a punch than its slim length might suggest. I very much enjoyed this.
Ester is a great protagonist. We meet her very young, and witness a tragedy that tears her family apart. It is an event that also sets her on a path to become a master rukher (roc handler). We witness her journey, through training, bonding, and also deployment during a campaign to rid the land of manticores. Meanwhile, Ester is also figuring out who she is, and what she wants from life — not an easy thing to do when paired with a bird of prey that could… well, eat her.
I very enjoyed the pacing of the story, which never felt rushed, nor did it ever get bogged down in world-building or extraneous details. That being said, the world feels fully realized, and the author does a fantastic job of situating the reader in the world and events. There’s a good balance between action and quiet, quotidian moments. The times when Ester is out with her roc are especially good, and readers will get a clear sense of the protagonist’s elation and exhilaration from working with the birds. The action is intense and not over-done, and the stakes always felt earned.
If you’re a fan of Lee’s work, the chances are very high that you’ve already pre-ordered this book. If you have yet to try the author’s books, then this could be a great place to start — it has all the hallmarks of what makes Lee’s work so compelling and popular: great characters, excellent writing, and a story that will grab your attention and hold you from start to finish.