Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.
If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…
With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED JULY 30, 2019
CW: animal cruelty, violence, loss of a loved one, kidnapping
If I have anything to say about Shatter the Sky, it’s that it appeals to everything I have ever really wanted out of fantasy. Big scary dragons and a chosen one who’s their friend? Yep! Girlfriends who would do anything for each other? Check! Ominous layers of prophecy that actually admit to being fallible and mutable? For sure! The oncoming throes of revolution set to tear down an unjust empire and consciously create better institutions in its wake? Oh yeah, even that!
Which means that despite the book’s shortcomings, I still had a great time reading it. Really, this is a great example of being able to enjoy a book that’s not really perfect, mostly because its flaws aren’t too glaring, and the parts that speak to me sat front and center enough to hold my attention. It’s a balancing act, essentially.
On the plus side, I absolutely LOVED Maren. From the outset, you can see how much she cares about Kaia, how far she’s willing to go to make sure she and her girlfriend get the long, happy life they both deserve. Not only that, but she thinks the world of Kaia, and the consequence of that, especially to start, is that she thinks very little of herself. Watching her grow from that position of “I’m not good enough” (which, btw, is how I feel with Anxiety Brain™ all the freaking time) to a place where she could still want to move heaven and earth for Kaia but feel worthy of that love, feel equal to Kaia, even feel that she has her own strengths that no one else shares? That sank in deep for me, really deep. I’m all for characters realizing their own self-worth and becoming stronger for it, and Maren embodies that fully.
Another great thing was the passive aspects of the world! There’s so much casual queerness (which, if you’ve been here very long, you know is my favorite thing), not only with Kaia and Maren being girlfriends, but Kaia has two moms, Maren responds to flirting from male and female characters, and there’s just no sign of homophobia anywhere! Yay for that!
Another great feature that’s not so much worldbuilding as it is just a narrative choice I’m delighted with? THE MAIN CHARACTER DOES NOT HAVE DEAD PARENTS. Yes, you heard that right! Maren’s parents are alive and active in her life, and while their direct role in her quest to save Kaia is limited, it’s a breath of fresh air for YA parents to actually be there supporting their child instead of being dead/providing revenge fuel/acting as antagonists.
On the flipside, though, I think the thing that did bum me out a bit with this was the pacing. Maren’s journey of self-worth is nicely paced in its own right, but the plot leading up to actually going after Kaia moves in fits and starts, trailing off in directions I wish had been given more depth, more anchoring. With a rebellion on the horizon, I wanted to know more about the possible roles the Aromatory might play, especially when she discovers Maren’s role in it. I wanted to hear from Maren’s brother, who’s used as a warning by her parents early in the book but never really mentioned again. I wanted Kaia herself to be around for more than about thirty pages altogether, to be part of a dream team with Maren and dragons.
Really, I just wanted more depth. Shatter the Sky rings a little hollow on this front, setting up for a fully imagined world and then digging into so little of it at length. It has potential, and so much of it, but the delivery itself is lacking. It doesn’t have the punch, the oomph, the weight I want from a book about dragons and overthrowing corrupt regimes and rescuing your girlfriend from a vicious society of soothsayers.
At the end of the day, though, don’t let that put you off. Shatter the Sky is a quick, fun read, and while I can’t see it becoming a smash hit with accolade after accolade tacked onto it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed! If you think you’d like to pick it up, too, then you’ve still got some time: pub day is July 30th, plenty of time to get pre-orders or library requests in!
Support your local gays and dragons and gays with dragons, folks.