Goodreads: The Endless Skies
Published: August 17, 2021
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…
I could tell while reading The Endless Skies that this is definitely a book that began with a premise — there are people who can shapeshift between human and flying lion form — and that suspicion was confirmed when I read the acknowledgements and Price said the book began with a dream of a lion/person in a grotto. Unfortunately, I don’t think the story Price built around that premise was particularly interesting, and I struggled for a long time trying to figure out what the fact that there are lion people as the protagonists even added to the book. It’s cool, but it seemed the plot could have been told with ordinary humans in their role. This had potential, and I was excited enough about it that I started reading it on release day, but ultimately I was let down by vague world building and characters who couldn’t capture my interest at all.
Plot-wise, the book banks a lot on telling. It tells the readers that Rowan’s warrior training is “brutal” so we know she’s some some of badass warrior who’s sacrificed everything to train to defend her city, but we don’t really see what makes it brutal. Then readers are told that the mission to find the “fabled panacea within enemy lands” is incredibly dangerous, but it was hard for me to feel there was danger. Readers know the two peoples are at war, so sure there are going to be some obstacles, but it didn’t strike me that this mission was going to be the most wild and terrible and treacherous task anyone had ever undertaken. I was underwhelmed.
And the characters couldn’t save the book for me. To start, the book is told from three POV’s, and the choices seem a bit random. One is Rowan, whom the book summary places as the “actual” main character, but there’s also her older sister (who is in her mid-twenties, so an interesting choice for a YA narrator) and Rowan’s childhood best friend/one of the love interests. All of them felt a bit lifeless to me. I didn’t care about Rowan. I didn’t feel any particular sisterly relationship between Rowan and her older sister, so this narrator might as well have been unrelated to her for all I cared, and I had no investment in the love triangle. Both love interests were boring. Finally, several people died in the book, and I didn’t care about them either, possibly because none of the characters seemed to beyond taking a couple sentences to say they were sad but needed to move on with their lives.
In fact, the entire premise of the plot left me feeling cold, which is that little children (and only little children) are dying of some mysterious disease. It feels as if Price is counting on the fact that this situation is just inherently distressing, that any reader would OF COURSE be horrified by little children getting sick and possibly dying because that would be horrifying in our old world. (Just look at the COVID-19 pandemic, where one of the major refrains is that “at least children aren’t particularly at risk” because it would be heartbreaking if they were.) However . . . readers don’t know any of the sick children in THE ENDLESS SKIES. The three main characters don’t know them either. I think Price could have done a lot more work to make me feel invested in this situation on a personal level, rather than relying on the fact that it’s just generally sad.
This was a big miss for me. I was excited about the book, and I like to think that Tor usually publishes great stuff in their imprint, but this felt very surface-level. I didn’t care about practically anything that was happening, and that made it boring.