The Endless Skies by Shannon Price
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a young adult fantasy of shapeshifters (the protagonist, Rowan, is a Leonodai, one of a race of magical people who can turn into winged lions) dealing with a deadly disease that threatens to decimate their population and bring their floating city, the Heliana, down from the skies.
There are many good things about it: the writing style is lean and compact (the book is only 287 pages) and the pacing is good, sometimes relentless. There are three viewpoint characters: Rowan, her sister Shirene, and Rowan's best friend-turned boyfriend, Callen. For a young adult story, the book is notably lacking in teenage angst. Callen is in love with his best friend, and at the beginning of the story tells her how he feels. Rowan is taken by surprise and doesn't know how to react. At that point the overall plot also kicks in, saving her (and the reader) from endless vacillating over the potential love triangle. Later on, when she does figure out who she wants, there's no dithering over the decision, and the rejected boy deals with it. It's refreshing.
If anything (and I don't often say this) I wish the book had been longer, just to open up the worldbuilding. There are other magical shapeshifting races (the sea-folk, the bearkings and the horselords) but we spend very little time with them or find out anything about their culture. The Leonodai have widening fissures and conflicts in their society, but because the plot is so laser-focused on finding a cure for the disease, we don't get much history on that and the possible competing factions. We also have only a superficial discussion of the war between the humans and the shapeshifters, because there simply isn't time for anything more, and the human general who is the main villain verges on the cartoonish.
So in the end, this book is....half a loaf, I guess. I enjoyed it well enough, but it could have been deeper and better.
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