Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee

The manticore is a gruesome beast… the body of a lion, the tail of a scorpion, the head of a man, and sometimes they have wings or horns, anything to make it uglier I guess, ha! In Fonda Lee’s novella Untethered Sky they sit at the top of the food chain. And the only thing that has a chance to take them out are the trained rocs that fly above the plains to spy both deer/ meat and manticore/ predator.

After her family is tragically killed by one of the beasts, Ester’s revenge is focused on training as a roc-handler apprentice. She’s placed with a fledgling named Zahra within the King’s Royal Mews. This short piece actually covers several years of training and relationship building between roc and ruhker. Ester accepts advice from several mentors and travels all over the map as she learns the minute tells of this union of woman and beast.

Lee’s premise is developed well in just a few chapters. It’s a lived-in world that makes it easy for the reader to walk around in the roc cage ankle-deep in guano and see through the eyes of a gliding bird of prey. Page length does limit the characterization of a couple of the secondary characters and there’s something missing when it comes to the politics of the empire… but I think the main goal of the story is Ester’s development as a ruhker and Lee has achieved good results.

4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Tor Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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