Giant birds are cool - let's go hunt monsters! Now with bonus EmotionsTM.
Untethered Sky is a brief, beautiful novella that packs in themes of family, love, loss and belonging, all under the wing (ha) of a compelling plot about training giant birds to fight monsters.
If I have one critique of the story, it is that the foreshadowing at times is quite heavy-handed, and perhaps feels more weighty than the events that later happen actually deserve. That being said, logically, some of it is genuinely catastrophic from the characters' perspective, so the problem is more that, having had the foreshadowing, the actual events are not made to feel quite so dramatic in the moment for the reader. But it's a very minor gripe, and one that did not really spoil the narrative at all for me.
Over all, I think Lee has crafted a poignant, beautiful novella, rich in emotion, and one that exists in such a perfect, neat form that it could only ever have been as it is. Some stories do not need a full novel to explore, and are better for their brevity - we inhabit them for a moment, focussing on a small window or time, or a specific idea or emotion, without the core of the narrative or themes being muddied by wider context. This is precisely one of those stories, and I hope we see more standalone novellas from Fonda Lee in the future, if this is what they're going to look like.
Highlights: impossible to put down while reading, beautiful world-building, big sads
Nerd Coefficient: 8/10
Reference: Fonda Lee, Untethered Sky [Macmillan, 2023]
POSTED BY: Roseanna Pendlebury, the humble servant of a very loud cat. @chloroform_tea