The Endless Skies
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"High above the sea, floats the pristine city of the Heliana. Home to winged-lion shapeshifters―the Leonodai―and protected from the world of humans by an elite group of warriors, the Heliana has only known peace.
After years of brutal training, seventeen-year-old Rowan is ready to prove her loyalty to the city and her people to become one of the Leonodai warriors. But before Rowan can take the oath, a deadly disease strikes the city’s children. Soon the warriors―including two of Rowan’s closest friends―are sent on a dangerous mission to find a fabled panacea deep within enemy lands.
Left behind, Rowan learns a devastating truth that could compromise the mission and the fate of the Heliana itself. She must make a decision: stay with the city and become a warrior like she always dreamed, or risk her future in an attempt to save everyone she loves. Whatever Rowan decides, she has to do it fast, because time is running out, and peace can only last so long."
The Endless Skies is a standalone fantasy novel by Shannon Price that is set to release on August 17th.
First and foremost, thank you NetGalley and Tor Books for providing me with a copy for review. Please note that this in no way affects my opinion. Also note that my opinions are based on the ARC, and things may be subject to change for the final copy.
While I wouldn't say my experience reading this was horrible, I thought that there was a lot of wasted space and potential in this. Whatever potential this had was bogged down by romance drama and a character arc I could have done without. Here are all the reasons why this just didn't work for me.
I found the writing to be rather awkward. Maybe it was because it wasn't profound enough for me or the sentence structure was too short to make the words flow naturally. I also found that the way information was dispensed wasn't very effective as it was just characters going on a tangent in order to explain something about the world.
Another thing that didn't work for me was one of the perspectives. You get three perspectives in this book, one of which I didn't like (and it was the main perspective too). When you don't enjoy the main vehicle in which the story is told, your enjoyment level goes down quite a bit.
The Leonodia of Heliana must venture into the human lands in order to find a cure for a bird-carrying disease that is affecting children. While not the most elaborate setup ever, this in and of itself is not a bad plot. What ruined it for me was the fact that this book felt more like a romance than a fantasy. The introduction of a love triangle within the first 30 pages was not a good sign for me, and the drama continued from there.
What also brought the experience down for me was the sense of urgency on the part of the characters. I get that things need to move quickly not only because it is a standalone and for the sake of the plot, but it does not seem feasible to enact a plan the next day. There was a lot of doing before thinking in this, and it doesn't really make sense that things aren't planned out carefully.
To make a bit of a dismal experience even worse, we arrive at the ending. I am not going to go into detail about it because of spoilers, but I felt like it was a completely unnecessary way to end the story. There was really no closure for it either which was frustrating.
This story follows the Leonodai, the shape-shifting people of Heliana who live up in the sky. Their land is run by a king and his council of 9 sentinels. Including the Leonodai, there are four races that occupy the land (not including a race that was wiped out).
While the world-building makes sense considering the length of the book and there were interesting elements, I felt like the addition of other races was wasted potential. They could have been an interesting addition to the story but, sadly, they were underused as they barely had a role.
As said previously, the story is told from three perspectives: Rowan, Callan, and Shirene. Some perspectives I could have done without while others should have been focused on more.
Even though her perspective is the main one, I could have done without Rowan as a character completely. I found that she really didn't have her priorities straight and a lot of the decisions she makes were impulsive and mostly selfish. I also thought that she jumped to conclusions a lot and judged people. Not exactly the qualities I want in a main character.
I didn't mind Callan's point of view but felt like he was reduced to a love interest and he didn't have much of an arc besides that. I also would have preferred to have more of Shireen's POV as she was the most interesting character and because she was barely focused on, I felt like her character wasn't fleshed out enough.
There just wasn't enough substance in this to make it a successful standalone. Fantasy standalones are hard to write in the first place because you have to establish an entire world, no matter how small or big, in a single book. If this was a bigger book it may have been a different story, but because this is only 350 pages, you can see that the world and story suffer because of it.
I would still say give this a shot if you are looking for a story that isn't overly complicated. If you are looking for something similar, I would recommend Under the Aegis, which is a fantasy webcomic that follows a group of people of different races (including one who flies and lives in the skies), who have to save the world.