Science fiction and fantasy                                            



Rainbird

by Rabia Gale

A girl dances on a platform made from the bones of an ancient dragon, so far above the ground that ordinary humans find breathing hard. A winged man, one of a species known as the eiree, discovers her there and warns her not to draw the attention of the stars.

This stunning opening gives a flavour of how original the world of Rainbird is. Rainbird is the dancer, a half-breed eiree, winged but flightless and not quite belonging to either the human or the eiree world. Her home is the Sunway, a part of the dragon's skeleton wide enough to live on and adapted over the years with machinery and other modifications.

Their sun is the dragon's eye, which is luminous and has been set up to pass around the world whose own sun is distant and small. It's a world that is definitely not our own.

Rainbird's father Petrus works on the Sunway as a technician. But he is ill, and the medicine he had been taking to cure himself is hard to come by, and getting harder. He's hiding his condition from his superiors so that they won't retire him and make him live on the surface away from his daughter. Yet Rainbird has far more to hide. Although only a teenager, she has a shady past that marks her out as a wanted fugitive who has to conceal her identity and her true nature wherever she goes. As she gets older this becomes harder. The Morality League are on the lookout for her, hoping to bring her to justice. And there are other tensions on the skeletal world, with its shady black markets, dizzying heights, and distrust between various factions, that make the whole precarious construction a volatile powder keg.

Rainbird is a likeable and gutsy character, the kind of person who will change things without compromise. She lives on the back of a massive dragon that has had its body repurposed to create a home for others. It's an odd environment, with a mixture of science fiction and fantasy elements, but it's not quite strange enough to be disorienting. The eiree are alien bird people, aloof and snobbish and made very differently from humans. So it's hard to know what to make of Rainbird's mother Diamada, who kept her half-breed child but then spent Rainbird's lifetime keeping her distance from her daughter. Part of the story's mystery is about exploring this tense mother/daughter relationship.

This novella is more young adult than not. Although it is short, it's pretty enjoyable, with a fair helping of mystery, excitement and poignancy as Rainbird searches for redemption and a place to belong in a world that has rejected and maltreated her. It's a complete story, yet I wouldn't have minded a continuation so I could stay in this fascinating world a little longer. I'll be looking out for more from this author.

12th August 2019

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
    Female Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review ©

Source: own copy

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