Book Review: REBEL SKIES by Ann Sei Lin

Title in white on blurred image of a giurl standing before the sky flanked by red
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book


Book cover for REBEL SKIES: title in white on blue with girl on red ship flying towards a grey city

Kurara has never known any other life than being a servant on board the Midori, but when her party trick of making paper come to life turns out to be a power treasured across the empire, she joins a skyship and its motley crew to become a Crafter. Taught by the gruff but wise Himura, Kurara learns to hunt shikigami – wild paper spirits who are sought after by the Princess.

But are these creatures just powerful slaves for the Crafters and the empire, or are they beings with their own souls – and yet another thing to be subjugated by the powerful Emperor and his Princess?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


If you enjoy Miyazaki films (Howls Moving Castle, Spirited away, etc), then this UKYA fantasy debut is a book to read. There is a wonderful whimsy and magic to the world – floating cities, skyships, origami-based magic and monsters made of paper. A world can do so much to create tone and really managed it here – it really did feel like floating through one of the Miyazaki films where all these ideas you might not think to combine come together so well.

The story itself is a mix of quests accidentally knocked off path by a rebellion, hidden (personal) histories, and monster hunting. I really liked the fact that Kaurara is not directly involved in the rebellion. She’s just trying to save her friend, and it just so happens that there are rebels whose plans are going to intersect with hers. This separation of the ideas, rather than the heroine being a part of the rebellion/finding her way to it, did make this book feel very different as it didn’t take the path I was expecting when the rebellion was introduced.

As Kaurara doesn’t become part of the rebellion, the intricacies of what was happening there were told through another POV, one that makes up the interludes. You really get a sense of what’s happening, the tensions and different loyalties conflicting within the country, through these interludes despite there being only about a half-dozen of them.

There is also a third POV in the book, who narrates about as much as the interlude POV (thus ensuring the focus stays on Kaurara in the book.) It is her new teacher, Himura, who has his own goals – and a deep-seated belief about the correct place for the origami creatures. He gave a different perspective on things, and it lets you understand why certain events happen (even if you don’t like them!)

This is the first book in the series, and I’m very interested to see where it’s going to go, as the ending leaves several possibilities open and also doesn’t quite leave Kaurara (and those with her) where you might expect physically or emotionally.

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