Review: Untethered Sky

Title: Untethered Sky (April 11, 2023)
Author: Fonda Lee
Pages: 160


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.

★★★★

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Camp Zero

Title: Camp Zero (April 4, 2023)
Author: Michelle Min Sterling
Pages: 304


This was a pleasant surprise. Camp Zero is swiftly paced, has solid twists, and features multiple compelling interwoven storylines. Michelle Min Sterling’s vision of the future is intriguing, alarming, yet totally plausible.

The separate POVs are well-differentiated, as each character brings a unique perspective to the story and they intersect in surprising ways. Each narrative thread has mysteries to unspool and Sterling doles those out in a consistent and continuous manner so you’re never waiting too long for the next reveal. Sterling’s utilitarian prose is effective at moving the story forward, as well.

I had hoped for a tidier ending, but the conclusion sticks to the book’s themes of societal disarray and desperation that all the characters confront throughout, so I can’t complain too much.

★★★★

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Walking Practice

Title: Walking Practice: A Novel (March 14, 2023)
Author: Dolki Min
Translated by: Victoria Caudle
Pages: 176


Being a human is awkward. Dating is awkward. Pretending to be a human, whilst dating, whilst satisfying your insatiable alien urge to consume human flesh? Yep, also awkward. Walking Practice takes us inside the mind of such an alien, who cobbles themselves into some simulacrum of a human before seeking out its prey. 

I spent an amusing afternoon zipping through this story, as it’s written in a breezy, conversational way. It’s titillating, graphic, and occasionally grotesque. And while there are some interesting observations about gender politics at play here, I’d imagine this novella would be more effective as a short story, as the alien’s constant inner monologuing started to lose its luster and focus after the first section of the book.

I’ll be sure to check out the print version of this book when it comes out, though, as the black and white line illustrations are really fantastic looking.

★★★¼

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Saint of Bright Doors

Title: The Saint of Bright Doors (July 11, 2023)
Author: Vajra Chandrasekera
Pages: 368


I’ve never read anything like The Saint of Bright Doors – wildly inventive, totally mesmerizing, and it upended my expectations at every turn. It reads like an established author’s career-defining masterpiece, rather than a debut novel. 

Vajra Chandrasekera paints a vivid picture of a city on the brink – told through the eyes of a man born and raised to be a master assassin, a catalyst of change in the world, bound for one singular purpose – but his skills dull from disuse and he strays from his destined path. The synopsis may not sound unique, but the tale and its telling are wholly original.

I was so impressed with Chandrasekera’s ability to craft a complex, political, and also surreal story in such an intelligible way. I was spellbound the entire time I spent with this book and I can’t wait to read it again, just to recapture some of the awe I felt the first time around.

★★★★★

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.