Book Review : The Sky on Fire

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : The Sky on FireThe Sky on Fire by Jenn Lyons
Published by Tor on July 9, 2024
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four-stars
Source: NetGalley

From the acclaimed author of the Chorus of Dragons series, this propulsive new standalone fantasy is Dragonriders of Pern for a modern audience.
Enter a world ruled by dragons…

Anahrod lives only for survival, preferring to thrive in the jungles of the Deep with the titan drake she keeps by her side. When an adventuring party saves her from capture by the local warlord, Sicaryon, she is eager to return to her solitary life, but this is no ordinary rescue. Anahrod's past has caught up with her. And these cunning misfits intend to spirit her away to the cloud cities, where they need her help to steal from a dragon’s hoard.
There’s only one in the cloud cities, dragons rule, and the hoard in question belongs to the current regent, Neveranimas―and she wants Anahrod dead.
Fans of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series and Rebecca Yarros's The Fourth Wing will enjoy this page-turning adventure with conniving dragons, high-stakes intrigue, a daring heist, and a little bit of heat.


The Sky on Fire
is a supremely fun book centering around heists, dragons, and magic with fantastic world-building. In a year when books can barely hold my attention, I was immediately hooked on The Sky on Fire and never wanted to put the book down.

 

For me, the standout of The Sky on Fire was definitely the world-building. The world is divided into high and lows, with the rich and powerful living high up in the mountains, where dragons like to live, and the poor and otherwise undesirable living down on the hellishly hot and lawless jungles of what is called The Deep. The Deep is where people go to disappear and that’s no exception for our protagonist, Anahrod, who hides there from a world filled with dragons who want her dead.

 

Ever since playing Skyrim for the first time, a game where an evil dragon, Alduin, seeks to take over the world, I have always wondered what it would be like to exist in a world ruled entirely by dragons. What kind of decisions would they make? How would they view humans? What would their ruling system or class divisions look like? The Sky on Fire gives an incredibly intriguing version of that world. In this world, humans are considered lesser than dragons, largely in part due to religious reasons, and humans with magic potential are forced to attempt to become a dragonrider in a pact that usually looks a lot like lifelong enslavement for the human.

“To become a dragonrider was to be all but a slave, perpetually locked in obedience to a single master, from whom one could never be parted. Not in the human’s lifetime, anyway.”

 

I really enjoyed this more nuanced portrayal of dragons, which I fear are usually depicted as wise and benevolent or malicious and greedy with no in between. The Sky on Fire imagines a world where dragons have different breaths, religions, and attitudes on humans. It was nice to see dragons depicted as actual characters over mythological beings that merely offer human characters something. I especially loved that each dragon has his or her own designated item that they—and they alone—can hoard. That’s the kind of unique quirk that I love about Jenn Lyons’s works. It also adds another interesting challenge to the already daunting premise of stealing from a dragon’s hoard.

 

Even with all of the layered world-building, The Sky on Fire is definitely a plot driven book. As someone who typically lives and breathes for character development, you’d think I would consider that a negative, but I was so enthralled by the world and the fast paced events that I wasn’t bothered by the characters not being the most developed. Characters have one or two defining traits, mostly from much-loved archetypes, and there’s just not a whole lot of actual depth to go around. The idea of all of these characters are great, but their execution is not—simply too much of the writing relies on the reader recognizing these familiar types of character and knowing what that trope typically entails to know the idea of the character. 

 

Even though the character building in The Sky on Fire as a whole is not ideal, I really enjoyed seeing multiple female characters at the forefront of a heist novel. So often books featuring heists are always run by men, with maybe one female character involved as a love interest or as a side character who is clearly not a love interest and has a quirky ability, like hacking. This is not at all the case in The Sky on Fire, which features three female characters involved in the planning and carrying out of the heist itself, and the ultimate final say on the plan goes to a female character.

 

Despite my joy at having all of these female characters wearing the pants of this operation, I felt like I had whiplash from a lot of, “but actually” moments concerning the plot and the heist itself. There were constant surprises, quick changes, and last minute discoveries, which kept things incredibly exciting. However, the characters were always able to pivot in order to meet new challenges with little to no panic, no matter how dire the situation. Their reactions and ability to meet any possible catastrophic situation or knowledge bombs being dropped felt quite unbelievable to me.

 

I also struggled to get on board with the romance of the novel.  Anahrod has insta-lust for the sexy female dragonrider, Ris, but still has a thing for her ex, self-proclaimed king Sicaryon. As someone who really love a slow burn romance and the build up of characters realizing and later acting on their feelings, I was disappointed with how the romance played out. Instead of Anharod picking between the two characters, these three characters are all coincidentally mutually attracted to one another and have no problems sharing one another with each other, without so much as having even one single serious conversation about pesky things like feelings, expectations, or boundaries. While it’s nice to not always have to read a love triangle and the jealousy and other complications that come with it, I honestly think this novel could have benefited from some of the tension and conflict that results from a love triangle.

 

“She groaned and rubbed a finger into her eye. Why make a single bad decision, she supposed, when could make two at the same time. Much more efficient. Ris and Sicaryon both. Why not?”

 

The romantic relationship between the three characters just felt way too random and easy, even if the author threw in what felt like obviously contrived moments of Anahrod telling herself that she shouldn’t get involved with either Sicaryon or Ris. And with all of the characters rather underdeveloped, I was rather indifferent to who ended up with whom and the constant “will-they-won’t-they,” when it was very obvious that they were all going to act on their urges. It just didn’t work as well for me as the throuple relationship between Khirin, Janel and Tareath in Lyon’s other series, A Chorus of Dragons. This could be because there just isn’t as much time in a standalone novel compared to a series to do the same amount of setup to make this type of relationship feel natural. 

 

Regardless of the parts of the novel that didn’t work as well for me, such as the character building and romance, I really enjoyed The Sky on Fire due to its unique portrayal of dragons, interesting world-building, and fast-paced story with lots of surprises. I would wholeheartedly recommend The Sky on Fire to people who are looking for a more light-hearted and fun fantasy read that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I think fans of Rachel Aaron’s The Legend of Eli Monpress and James Logan’s The Silverblood Promise would enjoy this novel as well.

 

four-stars
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Book Review

Posted June 10, 2024 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Dragons, Fantasy

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