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 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.
TITLE: Untethered Sky
AUTHOR: Fonda Lee
LENGTH: 160 pages
Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
UNTETHERED SKY is a story of one-sided devotion between a rukher and the roc who can never love her back, training to hunt manticores. The relationship Ester builds with Zahra, her roc, drives much of the narrative. It's all from Ester's perspective, as Zahra is a large bird who is unable to put words to whatever her thoughts might be on the matter. There's a contemplative air to the story, as Ester is telling this story from some unknown point in the future, looking back on her life in stages. I love stories of training, where someone is navigating the small moments of mastering a skill and figuring out how to get even better. Ester is close companions with one of the other rukhers, bonding over the process of training and care of the rocs which are the center of their lives. She becomes aware of the place rukhing has in the lives of other people, their nature as important tools for a very specific job. The worldbuilding is focused on the details of rukhing and the care of rocs, the similarities to falconry and very important differences with a creature far larger than her handler.
I enjoyed this and I love the ending. The details of the manticore hunt are gripping and I didn't want the story to be over but I'm very happy with how it fits the overall narrative.
Graphic/Explicit CW for grief, blood, gore, violence, injury detail.
Moderate CW for excrement, animal death, child death, parental death, death.
Minor CW for sexual content, pregnancy, miscarriage, vomit, slavery, suicidal thoughts.