Book Reviews

Review: Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee is a true story telling genius. I had such high hopes for Untethered Sky before even starting. And I was not disappointed at all. This novella packs a gutter punch of emotion from the very peaks of ambition to the valleys of despair.


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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

As a huge fan of killer birds, I knew I was going to love Untethered Sky. But I did not expect how emotionally moved I would be. Lee is able to tell a story about the rise of ambition and dangerous love all the way to heartbreak in just over 150 pages. At the core of this story is Ester’s relationship to Zahra her roc companion. It’s a relationship that always exists on the edge of a razor. The dangerous potential of Zahra’s abilities, the ways Ester has to keep their relationship on a tight trajectory.

I love these stories about partnerships with these incredibly dangerous beings. The danger that lurks beneath, peeking out in those moments when the veil between us and our natures thins. During their training scenes, we see their bond solidify and evolve, but also how it never quite loses its danger. It never quite is removed from the nature of the tamed, the barely contained. Lee creates a world in Untethered Sky where the order of our world is subverted with manticores preying on us.

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It creates this multi-faceted level of danger which, while being entirely fantastical, also feels profoundly moving at the same time. How we can so quickly become the one running, the tipping of the scales away from us. Untethered Sky is a novella which I’ll be thinking about for days. Its somewhat unspoken question is about whether we can truly change our nature. Shed these parts of us that have enabled both our survival and our consequences. Find Untethered Sky on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.


Who is your favorite deadly bird?

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