Shatter the Sky

3.5/5 stars — a wonderful premise and setting, but lacks slightly in execution A teenage girl decides to steal a dragon as part of a quest to save her abducted girlfriend. Are you sold on Shatter the Sky yet? That was all it took to grab my interest, but this story had so much more to offer! Maren, the protagonist, confronts an oppressive regime (and yes, dragons) in the course of a journey that becomes as much about finding herself as finding her missing heartmate. While Maren's character was a strong point of the novel, the plot felt overambitious, attempting to fit too many elements into a relatively short story. Something about the relatively short travel scenes also made the distance between places seem shorter than (I assume) it was supposed to be. Edited to add: Since writing my review, I've read a couple of others that said Maren felt like a Mary Sue, ie. a flat character to whom everything came easily. I'm not a fan of that term, but I do think slowing the pacing down a bit and adding more time for Maren to learn the skills she used at the fortress [and later when communicating with the dragons (hide spoiler)] would have helped alleviate the sense that she was an instant expert at everything she set her mind to. The worldbuilding was the same story: excellent bones, but not fully fleshed out. I loved that the author set up a complex imperial government and didn't shy away from showing the effects of colonialism and oppression, including writing characters who otherwise seemed nice until it turned out they sympathized with the regime in power. One of the aspects of Maren's character I liked best was how she refused to settle for replacing one corrupt government with another that would continue exploiting her people and the dragons, However, the world felt small and some of the people from different parts of the empire seemed reduced to one or two identifiers like skin color or clothing. I'm hoping future books in the series will allow for detail that might not have fit in this one. The dragons themselves—and the system of scented oils the Zafedi masters use to control them—are probably the best part of the story. It's a very unique take on the familiar concept of dragon riders. I could have read a whole novel of just Maren learning to be an Aromatory and taming dragons that way, although I do enjoy that her culture had a way of communicating with dragons naturally and she does that instead. Regarding prose, Shatter the Sky was fairly average. There were a few standout quotes, including the beautifully dramatic "If I wake, I may burn them all." "Then let them burn." The writing was very unornamented, which fit well with Maren's voice as a young woman who had never left her home on the mountain. A couple of miscellaneous bits I liked: First, the way queerness was built into the world with none of the prejudices that exist in many real-world cultures. Maren and Kaia's parents are supportive of their relationship with no fuss over both being female or over the fact that Maren is bi; Kaia also has two mothers, which is never remarked upon as outside the norm. Second, I enjoyed this response from Maren to a male character who said she was special: "There are hundreds of girls out there who are just like me. You think I'm special because you need me for your quest, but you'd think the same of anyone in my position." (My highlighted note here reads 'Heck yes! Shoot down that not-like-other-girls nonsense!') In the end, I really enjoyed Shatter the Sky despite wishing it had handled a few aspects of character development and plot progression with more finesse. Maren's story held my attention throughout and I'm excited to see it continue in future books. I definitely recommend this novel, particularly to dragon-loving readers (come on, who doesn't love dragons?) and those who like a quest-based storyline with minimal focus on romance.