Saturday, September 21, 2019

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

A girl who loves girls going off on a mission to steal a dragon in order to save her girlfriend? YES.

I'm happy to say that this book mostly lived up to the hype. It had some problems, but not with the execution of the premise and more with nitpicky things that bothered me as a reader of the fantasy genre. And honestly? That's a good sign. Because if I liked the book enough to be able to focus on the more genre-specific errors, that means that it was a pretty darn good book.

A while back, I read GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE which was my first foray into F/F YA, and some people seemed to read that review and have their takeaway be that I didn't like F/F books (false), and not that I didn't like F/F books that were bad (true). SHATTER THE SKY is the good F/F book that I've been looking for. It's written in a delightfully retro way that reminds me of Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey novels, filled with strong women and medieval worlds where misogyny and homophobia aren't inherently built into societal structures.

Let me say that again for you people sitting in the back:

👏 LGBT+ 👏 and 👏 women 👏 aren't 👏 inherently 👏 suppressed 👏 in 👏 this 👏 society👏

I get that some people want to use fantasy as a vehicle for exploring institutional bigotry, but when it's the status quo in all fantasy novels, it gets exhausting. SHATTER THE SKY shatters that trope and has, from what I've read so far, LGBT+ people 100% accepted as normal by these societies, and women appear to be equal to men, except for the fact that the oracle-type characters take female tithes from villages (which some require as an honor or a curse, depending). But I'm okay with that.

The book begins with Maren and Kaia sharing a moment together before this big ceremony. Kaia wants to leave their village and Maren wants to stay, but their separation ends up being expedited by Kaia being taken away by the Aurati (seer-type people). Maren is devastated, but rather than sitting around and moping Bella Swan-style, she gets up and does something about it: she leaves the village and goes to the next city over where they raise dragons, planning on seizing a dragon and then laying waste to the people who stole her love from her in the first place (the Aurat).

The reason this book only gets three stars is because the world-building isn't as great as it could be. I was still confused about the smell magic and how it worked, and would have liked to see more scenes going into depth about it, like books like POISON STUDY and THE POISON MASTER did. I also wish there were more scenes with the dragons and those who bonded with and trained them, and what happened to the dragons that went mad in the oubliettes. The whole premise of this book kind of reminded me of a less successful version of Mercedes Lackey's JOUST, which is probably one of my favorite books about dragons ever. It is so good, and if you haven't read it, you really, really should.

That said, I think SHATTER THE SKY has a lot of potential and even if this series doesn't work out for me (I am curious to see where it goes from here, as it is sequel-baiting like crazy and you can't just end a book series like this without some sort of revolution), I would read more of this author's work as I really like her style and how it pays homage to the female greats of the 1990s. If you're a fan of Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey and are tired of misogynistic, heteronormative fantasy novels written with the straight male gaze in mind, you would do well to pick up this book!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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