REVIEW: The Sky on Fire by Jenn Lyons

After the blazing success of her epic A Chorus of Dragons series, Jenn Lyons is now back with another delightfully queer dragon adventure in The Sky on Fire. Set in a richly imagined world ruled by moody dragon overlords, this brand-new standalone is a flaming fun take on a heist fantasy!

The Sky on FireThe Sky on Fire opens with one hell of an intriguing prologue which immediately sets the stakes and reassures the reader that: yes, here there do indeed be dragons, and they have dark demands about a certain previously believed dead woman. Enter Anahrod, our wayward protagonist with animal communion skills who has quietly been surviving in the murky jungles of The Deep for the past seventeen years. When a motley crew of morally grey misfits saves her from capture by the local warlord, she realises that the time of running from her past has come to an end. Against her will, she is whisked back to the deceptively lustrous cloud cities and conscripted into their schemes to rob the most powerful dragon’s hoard: a dragon that wants Anahrod dead.

Look, with the ambitiously epic A Chorus of Dragons being one of my all-time favourites, I was nervously excited to see what Lyons could deliver in a contained standalone. And honestly, while this story is not nearly as complex as her previous series, Lyons’ wild imagination and quintessentially quirky storytelling is still on full display in The Sky on Fire.

A divided society ruled by tyrannical dragons with all kinds of unique magical powers, an religion based on humans being thrown out of heaven to serve the dragons, a twisted history written by the victors, and an extremely nuanced and refreshing take on the familiar dragonrider trope which explores consent, co-dependency and power in terrifyingly fascinating ways; how there is so much rich world building packed into such a fast-paced standalone is truly beyond me, but I was gobbling it all up!

Not to mention, Lyons has once again crafted a casually queer-normative world full of beautifully diverse characters who are embraced just the way they are. I especially loved the concept of people expressing their gender, sexuality, and bedroom preferences through wearing different types of rings; we should do ourselves a favour and steal this idea to make dating infinitely easier.

All that said, I personally would not have minded if the pacing had slowed down a bit to let us fully appreciate all these amazing concepts in their full glory. The Sky on Fire zooms along at breakneck speed, and there is truly not a single dull moment to be found. On the one hand, I really liked the utterly addictive ‘just one more chapter’ quality, but on the other hand I found it a bit exhausting that neither the characters nor the reader gets any time to just sit, breathe, reflect, and process for a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Lyons has a true knack for creating vibrant, quirky and distinct characters whose clasing identities and motivations make for a very fun dynamic. Yet I also have to admit that I never felt overly invested in any of the characters here, as I barely got any time to get connected to them. Moreover, while I loved the little teases of a beautifully queer poly romance here, I personally think that relationship deserved a lot more development; the feels just weren’t feeling.

Ultimately, the fun factor and highly engaging storytelling made up for some of these quibbles for me, and there’s no denying that Lyons delivered an impressively ambitious standalone story here. True, some of the plot beats and resolutions might have felt a bit overly convoluted or suspiciously convenient, but I think Lyons gets away with it by delivering a story that is just so refreshingly unconventional and inventive in every other way.

If you liked the dragonrider bond in Yarros’ Fourth Wing or Novik’s Temeraire, but also want some heisty action and queer goodness like in M.J. Kuhn’s Thieves duology, then you better try The Sky on Fire. Filled with loveable anti heroes, complicated family drama, brutal beasties, immersive settings, exhilaration action, and a dash of queer love, this fast-paced and action-packed fantasy heist is a smoking hot adventure from start to finish.

Thank you to Tor for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The Sky on Fire is scheduled for release on July 9, 2024.

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Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay Rosalyne is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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