Cover Image: Untethered Sky

Untethered Sky

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Member Reviews

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review*

I absolutely loved this story, and the descriptions of everything. The descriptions of Zahra's coloring let me picture it almost perfectly, and I loved how well described everyone was. I did wish there was a bit more plot, especially given the build up of the rocs and manticores, but really enjoyed the story nonetheless. I also really liked the friendship (relationship?) between Darius and Ester, and how they worked so well together with their rocs. The ending was very bittersweet, but felt fitting. I want more of this world, and to know what Nasmin got up to afterwards. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who needs something not too plot heavy but insanely good to read after a bad day.
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Fonda Lee hits another home run in this heartwarming tale of camaraderie, vengeance, ambition and ultimately friendship. After a manticore kills Ester’s brother and mom, Ester heads to the royal mews to become the master and hunting partner of a Roc (a large, raptor like bird). Rocs are the natural enemies of manticores, which have began terrorizing the countryside in increasing numbers, snagging the attention of the realm’s King and Crown Prince. Ester is paired with a fledgling Roc named Zara who becomes her soul focus. Properly bonding with a Roc requires the complete sacrifice of all else. There’s just one catch, can an apex predator ever really love you back? 

Throughout her journey with Zara, Ester befriends Darius and Nasmin, two equally ambitious Rocers with agendas all their own. As the three’s paths diverge, and outside pressures complicate the realm’s political landscape their relationships hit turbulence and the three face very different obstacles, testing their loyalty and ambition. This is an intriguing, quaint morality tale underscoring the costs of vengeance, and what love can and cannot overcome. Refreshingly, Untethered Sky focuses on the common folk of the realm, rather than the grandstanding heroes and change makers. Overall, a beautiful tale I would recommend to all fantasy lovers.
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My highly anticipated book this year! Thank you NetGalley and Tor Publishing for the advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Manticores are bear-sized animals with long tails and lion-like heads, and their favorite prey is humans. The only animal capable of killing these monsters is the roc (a giant bird). 
It's difficult to form a bond with and train a roc, but Ester is determined to become a rukher. It’s her life now—to look after her roc, Zahra, and train it to be the best hunter. 

Ester's admiration for her roc grows stronger each day, and she worries that Zahra may abandon her one day. 
Ester is a kind character, she accepts her losses with sadness yet understanding. She grows fond of her friends. Rather than feeling jealous, she admires her friends’ success as rukhers. She had a traumatizing childhood after a manticore killed her mother and brother. She's already lost her family she can’t allow the monster to take her friends as well.

I immensely enjoyed this novella. I’m not a huge fan of novellas, as I prefer extensive worldbuilding. However, this book was rewarding. It brought warmth to my heart, was very well written, and the main character was realistic and lovable.

Highly recommended for animal lovers, particularly bird lovers.
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Fonda Lee is one of my favorite authors and I will jump at the chance to read anything by her. This new novella is a departure for her. It takes place in a sort of ancient Greek feeling world. The main character, Ester, is given her first roc to bond with. It's hoped that bird and woman will form a relationship and that Ester will eventually be able to fly Zahra the roc on monster killing missions. In this world, rocs are not big enough to ride but are still gigantic enough to be able to hunt and kill wolves, lions, or the ultimate hunt: the manticore.

Lee has clearly done her research into how hunting birds are bonded with their handlers. I fell in love with Zahra just as thoroughly as Ester did. It's made clear that, just like raptors in our world, rocs are in a reciprocal relationship with their handlers and they can always make the decision to leave. Whenever you fly a bird you have to be ready to say goodbye. You're always vulnerable to heartbreak.

The world is one I'd love to visit again. All the characters were richly drawn and human. And I'll always love any book in which there's a such a close and special relationship with an animal. I knew I was putting my heart on the line with this one, too. No regrets.
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I’m a sucker for books about birds – so when a favorite author of mine pens a novella about giant hunting birds – I jump on board. In Untethered Sky, Fonda Lee’s words bring life to the majesty and power of the rocs, legendary birds of prey who keep the countryside clear of the monstrous manticores.

Because of its short length, the story doesn’t have room to be overly complex, but Lee has managed to make a simple story poignant and affecting. She made me care deeply for these beautiful winged beasts and the bond they share with their keepers. I’d absolutely sign up for more stories set in this world.
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This is the perfect fantasy quick-read and escapism shortcut.

Untethered Sky is quite a departure from the epic urban fantasy and gritty Green Bone Saga, but leave it to Fonda Lee to dive into "traditional" fantasy territory and write the perfectly balanced standalone novella with just the right amount of depth, worldbuilding, well-rounded characters, and action; complete with her trademark emotionally painful story arc.

With beautiful prose and an immersive writing style, Fonda Lee delves into the intricacies of a relationship between a giant bird of prey (known mythically as Roc) trained to serve a kingdom in the fight against a bigger monster, the manticore, and its human partner, Ester, whose life mission is to avenge her family's tragic fate.

This is the first animal-focused fantasy book I've read, and I was surprised by how quickly this world pulled me in. Even if you think big murder birds are not your thing, it's easy to care for the story as the human component is as strong as the back and forth between predator and prey, beast and trainer: the storyline also focuses on the forging and downfall of friendships and alliances, and the built up of a slow burn romance.

𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐔𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐒𝐤𝐲:
- if at times you find yourself staring at nature in awe;
- if you're looking for a short read and/or something different to challenge yourself without leaving the fantasy realm;
- if you need a palate cleanser.

Thank you NetGalley and Tordotcom for the ARC, you made a fangirl very happy.

Rating: 4.25 stars
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The only word i have for this is obsessed. I am so obsessed with the characters and the writing style. SO GOOD
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WONDERFUL. STUNNING. SPECTACULAR. SOMETHING THAT I COULD READ TIME AND TIME AGAIN! Fonda Lee does it again.
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Fonda Lee is now firmly an auto-buy author for me.

Untethered Sky was surprisingly emotional and heart-wrenching for a book about monsters. While I think is unfair for me to compare this to The Greenbone Saga (a trilogy that gives us much more time to become emotionally attached to the characters and the story), how could I not hope for the same big reactions I felt while reading those ones?

I was not disappointed, as Ester and Zarah immediately captured my heart. The action was presented with JUST enough detail that I was on the edge of my seat, and I felt invested in every aspect of this book. Nasmin, Daruis, and Ester's stories all wrapping in SUCH different ways, yet not different at all was POETIC.

Fonda you have my heart and my wallet in your clutches.
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I feel like so often novellas let me down--there just isn't enough time for me to get into the world and the characters. But, this was definitely not that. This was such a dreamy and fantastical story with amazing worldbuilding and such interesting themes. The pacing of this was so good and it was so tightly plotted--I loved every page of this! I long for more in this world, please give me more, haha. Another homerun from Fonda Lee, I highly recommend this!
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CONTENT WARNING: mention of miscarriage, blood, death, death of a child, death of a parent, gore

I fell in love with Lee’s writing throughout the Greenbone Saga, and I honestly didn’t even need to read the summary to know I wanted to read this book. So I went into this kind of blindly, aside from knowing that this involved rocs and riding them. Even so, I was surprised at how much plot, character, and emotion she was able to pack into a 160-page novella.

We get to meet Ester and see her early years, which have a major influence on her path in life. I liked seeing how she had to work to bond with Zahra, and the story doesn’t shy away from all the nitty gritty aspects of working to train a wild animal. So often, stories just gloss over all the hard work that goes into training, and it could have been easy to do in a short novella, but Lee made the choice to talk about Ester having to constantly work to reinforce behaviors, clean out the enclosure, and get Zahra used to her presence, yet still walk the fine line of knowing that Zahra is a wild animal at heart and can tear her apart at any given moment, especially if her training isn’t up to par. 

I also enjoyed seeing how Ester slowly began to form relationships with some of the ruhkers (people who train and work with rocs) around her. She forms close bonds with two people around her, and gets to know them and enjoy their company despite the fact that she seems to be a loner at heart. The two people that she becomes closest to play an integral part in the story, and their personalities are so different, and Lee managed to create well-rounded characters that popped off the page. 

At heart, Ester’s dream of becoming a ruhker was to avenge her family and save others from suffering the same pain that she did. She was single-minded in her focus, which became more like an obsession as time went on. Being dedicated wasn’t a bad thing, since it allowed her to be good at what she did, although it did have some consequences for her. Ultimately, it came down to what she was willing to pay to achieve her goal. This was a fantastic story—fast-paced, intriguing, and with some plot twists that I loved, even though the foreshadowing let me know it was probably going to break my heart a little bit. Overall, this just cemented the fact that I’ll continue to read whatever Lee writes, regardless of what it is, since it’s guaranteed to be a winner in my eyes.
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Thank you Tor Publishing Group and Netgalley for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Untethered Sky couldn't be more different from Lee's beloved Green Bone Saga. I loved that Lee pivoted in a different direction to give us a novella about a rukher and her roc. 

The story follows Ester, a ruhker (aka trainer/handler) of a roc named Zahra, who is basically a giant bird that is the size of a full grown man. We're taken along Ester's journey as she trains and forms a relationship with Zahra in which they hunt and slay manticores. In this world, manticores are THE WORST.

Untethered Sky was more character driven that I expected. There isn't a ~main conflict~ per say, but the story takes an intimate look at Ester's relationship with Zahra. Since this was a novella, I don't want to say too much and let y'all read and find out for yourselves. It's a much different take on animal companion trope we all know and love in fantasy. I highly recommend and I think y'all are gonna like this one when it comes out in April!

4/5 stars
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Untethered Sky is a bright, dreamy and adventurous novella, with lush wordplay and delightful worldbuilding, concerned with exploring vengeance, purpose, and sacrificial love. Our protagonist, Ester, is an irrepressible heroine who is coping with grief not only as an emotion but as a driving force in her life. This is just a very well-executed story- the pacing and momentum is excellent. The story lingers in the right places to immerse the reader and build suspense, and picks up when it needs to to move the plot along. The ending is satisfying and it's a pleasure to read. 

Thank you so much for the ARC!
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This is the first work I’ve read from Fonda Lee, and I will definitely be picking up more. 
What a fantastic novella.  The pacing, the atmosphere, the characters; it all drew me in and I was sad when it as over. 
This is what I want out of novella’s that I pick up, and while I’m excited to read more of Lee’s longer works, I would pick up another shorter work from her in a heartbeat. 
Thanks for the ARC!
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I very much enjoyed this novella and I actually wished it had been a little bit longer. I am huge fan of Fonda Lee’s writing and I couldn’t get enough. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I started this but I found myself hooked from the beginning. Ester is an excellent character and I loved seeing her passion and her drive to achieve her goals. Her family life was destroyed when a manticore attacks her home leaving her with ideas of revenge and the determination to become a ruhker ( an elite roc trainer) 

I loved the descriptions and the rocs. The world building and mechanisms for training and flying giant birds of prey to hunt down monsters was fascinating. The slow build up of trust Ester and her roc Zahra had gave this story real depth. I was nervous for Ester and Zahra each time they were sent on and hunt. This story isn’t only about hunting and training the rocs. The human relationships that were formed throughout the story really gave this a nice balance from the cold reality that the rocs are not pets. They did not reciprocate love or affection. 

Overall this is a fast paced novella that I definitely recommend. I do think personally you have to be in the right mood for this type of story. It’s by no means warm and fuzzy and cheerful. The ending was bittersweet and there were definitely moments throughout the book that made me sad. If you’re an animal lover be prepared to have all the feels. 

4.5/5

Thank you Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tordotcom for gifting me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I would have liked a lot more of the obsession and monstrosity the narrator kept saying was there, BUT if I ignore that, this was a gorgeous, racing, richly textured yet bite-sized fantasy with all the dynamic action and strong character I trust Fonda to bring, and fuelled my continual love for birds of prey. Maybe that was my problem because I simply cannot conceive of these birds being monsters when this is my literal dream. I love when characters are good at their jobs, and I loved the found family brought together by passion for their creatures. If this was longer I would have liked to see more of Ester, Nasmin and Darius as a trio, but it was still satisfying.

Anyway, I want a roc.
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I wasn't expecting an animal based fantasy story, but that is exactly what this is- I was expecting more of a revenge type plot, but this really was about the bonding between people and ye fantasy creatures. This does such a wonderful job describing the rocs (I am picturing these as griffins but I may be off there :)) and particularly our MC's connection to her roc. For a novella, this covers a lot of ground very elegantly, starting with Ester as a rookie and following her as she and her fellow ruhkars hunt down manticores. The ending made me cry so... gotta be a pretty solid tale!
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This novella is full of action, friendships, and truly makes you feel the terror of the rukhers as they are hunting their prey. Ester trains to be a rukher one of the few who can handle a roc (a very large bird of prey) and teach it to hunt for her. It has Lee's usual stunning writing, and I world where I would NOT want to live for fear of being eaten by a manticore, but this story packed a punch even in novella form.
I really came to care for Ester and wanted to see her succeed in all of her hunts with Zahra, and wanted to watch her friendships grow even more throughout the story.
It's hard to say much more without giving anything away, but if you've enjoyed Lee's previous works, I think you will find a refreshingly new world created here. I really enjoyed my time with it and can't wait to pick up a physical copy when release day comes!

A huge thank you to TOR for the early copy. All opinions are my own.
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Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is one of my all-time favorite series. When I heard about Untethered Sky, her new novella, I literally jumped on it at NetGalley. I have mixed feelings after finishing it (in one sitting, but it’s no feat given it’s only 160 pages).

Ester hates Manticores - one of them killed her family. That’s why she became a rukhter. Paired with a fledgling roc (giant predatory bird) named Zahra, she devoted herself to a calling that would allow her to seek revenge on the creatures that had taken her loved ones from her. There’s loss, tragedy, drama, and love here, all wrapped up in a tight plot revolving around a young girl with tragic backstory, her relationship with wild creature and potential romance.

For such a short book, Untethered Sky covers a pretty long period, taking readers all the way through her first steps as a rukhter to the final manticore hunt.

I liked the story, but I felt too much of it was focused on introducing the world and its mechanics. As a result, I didn’t connect with it as strongly as with Lee’s other works. Not a bad book by any means, just the one that didn’t fully captivate me. That said, if Fonda Lee ever writes more in this world, I’ll be there to read it!
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4.5 rounded up to 5/5 ⭐️


A roc is always a wild thing, always God’s monster alone.



ARC provided by the publisher Tordotcom through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Untethered Sky is a solid adventurous fantasy novella that combines the sport of falconry with giant birds of prey, meaningful friendships, and connection.

It is no secret that I am a big supporter of Fonda Lee, especially The Green Bone Saga trilogy that concluded a couple of years ago. When Fonda announced that she will release a brand new fantasy novella set to release 2023—I needed to get my hands on the ARC. Thankfully Tordotcom kindly sent me an eARC of Untethered Sky. Before I dive into the review, I would like to appreciate the amazing and beautiful cover of this book illustrated by Jaime Jones, the same artist that illustrated the cover of A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. The illustration of Ester on her chariot with Zahra in flying the sky is just the perfect visuals representing the essence of the whole book.

Untethered Sky is a story about an apprentice Ruhker, a ranger that trains predatory birds to hunt, named Ester that has recently been tasked to bond with a roc, a giant majestic predatory bird, named Zahra. All of Ester’s hard work has come to this moment where she will stay with the young roc and bond for many nights in the dark. It is a sweeping tale about a slice of Ester’s life as a ruhker, the trials and tribulations that shaped her early on in her career, and the deep connection Ester feels for Zahra.

Fonda Lee’s writing style is incredibly engaging and immersive, bringing in details about the world in small portions throughout the book to flesh out not only the characters but also the world itself. It is Fonda’s masterful ability to create worlds from barebones building them up without dumping an avalanche of information in the first few chapters. As a reader that admires Fonda Lee’s previous series, reading this book feels satisfying. Everything about the world and characters didn’t take long for me to warm up to. Fonda delivers the story in a clear, structured, and well thought out manner from start to end.

My love was entirely possessive. When you love a person, you are expected to give them their freedom, but when you love a monster, you keep it caged. A monster can’t love you back, so there’s none of the guilt of a reciprocal relationship.


The story of Untethered Sky is told from a singular POV of Ester as it is a story about her life. Ester is a character that is well fleshed out, she has a clear set of motivations and intentions in her existence. She has dedicated her whole life to become a ruhker and with that much dedication, of course, Ester comes with a lot of baggage as a character that readers will find out throughout the book.

Ester’s development as a character is subtle compared to the development of Fonda’s previous characters but to be fair this book is much shorter than a three book series. But that doesn’t mean the story of Untethered Sky didn’t have memorable characters. Fonda’s greatest strength as a writer, in my opinion, are her characters. Each character in this book is wonderfully fleshed out with distinct personalities and voices. They each can stand on their own on page and make their presence known. Though I have a bit of a gripe with Ester, that I can forgive, she is a young adult in this story so her inner monologues reads a bit young.

The other two characters that carried a lot of significance are Darius and Nasmin. They are Ester’s closest companions that have helped her during her early days as an apprentice. Seeing the bonds between the three develop throughout the book gives me goosebumps. If you are a reader that has picked up a book by Fonda Lee you’ll know the coil of dread looming in the background ready to slam readers with a twist at the most surprising times. For this book, I’d say Fonda is more subtle but the way it was presented is equally harrowing and emotional.

Due to how short this book is, I will not elaborate about the details of the world. Though I would like to praise Fonda for creating such a vivid and immersive world. Fonda layered details of the world from the society, the basics in ruhking, details about the roc, and many more. This book combines being a ranger, animal handling, and giant birds of prey complete with a dash of politics. Overall a well crafted world, as expected for a Fonda Lee book.

People have short memories, but nature is patient and implacable.


Final thoughts, Untethered Sky is an adventurous story about rangers, the sport of falconry with giant birds, and friendship. Fonda’s masterful writing brought life to the world that set as the perfect background for the story. All the characters are colourful in personality and voice that develop wonderfully throughout the story. It is an entertaining story that is hard to put down a. K. a. unputdownable. The pacing is fast and engaging that will immerse readers immediately from the very first page. Honestly, I am a bit biased because I love Fonda Lee and I will read anything she publishes. But trust me on this, Fonda Lee’s books are good! I highly recommend you to pick up this book once it releases and The Green Bone Saga. This book is also a perfect beginner book for readers who are interested in getting into adult fantasy.

The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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