Novella: Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is one of the most immersive, enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had this past decade. My fandom for the author’s work continues with her standalone novella Untethered Sky (2023), a secondary-world tale that shifts gears seamlessly from the robust world-building of Kekon to a more contained, focused narrative in a high-fantasy setting. As the novella begins, Ester is a young woman who becomes a ruhker in order to avenge a family tragedy. Ruhkers are essentially handlers of rocs, majestic mythological beasts who can be trained and managed to hunt, and they’re the kingdom’s primary defense against the fierce, human-hunting manticores who terrorize the countryside—and were responsible for killing members of Ester’s family. Her story chronicles intense relationships with fellow ruhkers named Darius and Nasmin, but especially her bond with the mercurial roc under her care, Zahra.

Lee’s confident, accessible prose translates quite nicely to the new milieu of Untethered Sky, which may not possess the intricate political machinations that made the Jade books so enthralling, but delivers instead an eloquent character study just as engrossing. The novella’s admirable characters and nicely structured plot combine for a smooth, swift read, its fantastical surface engaging in its own right. But on a deeper level, Ester’s inspiring personal journey is uniquely absorbing as a versatile metaphor upon which the reader can inscribe personal insight. An outwardly simple story, perhaps, but one that is articulately rendered and emotionally rewarding.

Scroll to Top