Review: Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson

April 23, 2014 3.5 stars, Book Review 20 ★★★½

Review: Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik DavidsonUnwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
Series: Caeli-Amur #1
Published by Tor Books on April 15, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
Pages: 430
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

Caeli-Amur: an ancient city perched on white cliffs overlooking the sea; a city ruled by three Houses, fighting internecine wars; a city which harbours ancient technology and hidden mysteries. But things are changing in Caeli-Amur. Ancient minotaurs arrive for the traditional Festival of the Sun. The slightly built New-Men bring their technology from their homeland. Wastelanders stream into the city hideously changed by the chemical streams to the north. Strikes break out in the factory district.

In a hideout beneath the city, a small group of seditionists debate ways to overthrow the Houses. How can they rouse the citizens of the city? Should they begin a campaign of terror? Is there a way to uncover the thaumaturgical knowledge that the Houses guard so jealously? As the Houses scramble to maintain their rule, it becomes clear that things will change forever in Caeli-Amur.


Unwrapped Sky has an amazingly realized fantasy world both beautiful and harsh. The city of Caeli-Amur is a place where thaumaturgical magic and ancient technology are melded together in such a way I haven’t seen before. The citizens are ruled by three Houses that hold ultimate power in the city. If you do not work for one of these Houses then you are likely to be used up and trampled beneath their maneuvering.

Let’s start a revolution
​The city has quite a few interesting fantasy races and has a unique yet familiar feel to it. But at its heart, it is a city in turmoil. The general populace are unhappy with the treatment they get from the Houses and how the bulk of thaumaturgical knowledge is hoarded by the Houses. Rather than helping protect the people they employ, by granting them techniques and skills to aid them, the workers are left to flounder risking their lives and sanity using the magic necessary to do their jobs. Rather like working on a radioactive generator without a protective suit. This eventually warps the people’s bodies and minds. That isn’t even the worst the Houses are capable of, they will kill people indiscriminately and have completely enslaved a few other non human races. As Unwrapped Sky is told mostly from 3 points of view we get to see a little bit of everything.

Kata: a philosopher assassin who has crawled her way out of the streets is indebted to House Technis for all that she has. She must commit an act that breaks her heart and also goes undercover to expose a seditionist group that is hiding in the city.

Boris: a House agent who has spent practically his whole life working for House Technis and is reviled by his former friends and even his own daughter. He sympathizes with the plight of the everyday man but ultimately what is he willing to do about it?

Max: A young seditionist (revolutionary) who is also a thaumaturgist that is a member of a the seditionist group hiding within the city. He has big aspirations to free people from the rule of the Houses and believes this can be accomplished through thaumaturgy.

There were points while reading I found myself so captivated and yet I would also feel so disconnected from what I was reading. I really believed this was because of the characters themselves. While I loved the story and found the world building fascinating there simply wasn’t a character that I actually liked. By the time I was 40% into the book I realized I didn’t much care for any of the main characters. Where was the sympathetic character that I could latch on to? While all of them had some tragedy in their past and had good qualities about them, they also had an equal number of things that made it hard to like them. Perhaps because we got to know each character so intimately with all of their fears, desires and overall motivations, that I ended up finding their personalities unpalatable. That in turn made my reading experience unusually slow because I found myself just not caring what happened to them as much as I should have.​ When I think about it – I support I can’t really say I didn’t like the character – because if I truly felt that way I would have stopped reading. But even though I wanted to be sympathetic to them I found myself not. Luckily I did find this changing toward the end of the novel and I believe I will be very interested in what happens to them.

​No happy champagne bubbles for you
I have to admit despite not personally caring for the characters as much as I would have liked, I still really enjoyed the world. For me that is what this book was all about. Learning about this extraordinary city, magic and this worlds mythology. It is a world rife with disastrous magic and cultures that I would love to see more closely. The details and amount of depth that was went into allowed me to see the world itself as a character, which is something I look for in a really good fantasy. Now prepare yourself, there is a lot of bleakness and sad realities to this world that make it a much more somber read than I normally enjoy. But I definitely appreciated how rich and real the world building was. I definitely think based on the way things left off that the next book might take on a different tone which I anticipate seeing. I consider Unwrapped Sky to be one of those ‘thinker’ fantasies. It wasn’t asking me to love it, it wanted me to think about everything it was offering up. Why do people do the things they do, what would have happened if this or that were done differently, what can be done, and who is willing to do it? What would you do? What more can you have, will that one more fulfilled desire give you the happiness you want. That sort of thing. I don’t think of myself as a deep thinking reader. I’m in it for the pleasure of it and because I like to see new worlds – so on that point Unwrapped Sky delivers, not a thrilling roller coaster fantasy but a slow moving scenic train ride.

*gasp* This book was provided by the publisher! No worries though it’s an honest review and all opinions expressed are my own. Cover art displayed courtesy of the publisher. This post might also contain affiliate links. To view my full Blog Policy, click here.

Stalk me!

Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
Stalk me!

Latest posts by Tabitha (Pabkins) (see all)

20 Responses to “Review: Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson”

  1. Melliane

    I was wonderging about this one I confess and didn’t know if I had to ask the publisher for it or not, I should have! Definitely! I love the idea and I confess I’m intrigued. I’m glad you had a good time with it!

  2. Mogsy

    Ah I was waiting for your review of this. I still need to read this one, even though I knew it didn’t blow you away, I was still secretly hoping it’d get at least four stars 😀 But I can understand how not liking the characters can have a huge impact, since I’m the same way. I do like the sound of the mythology aspect, however!
    Mogsy recently posted…Waiting of Wednesday 04/23/14My Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      The thing is that I really think he was trying to explore the fact that no one is perfect. But in some ways that just didn’t work for me because while I know no one is perfect there are still plenty of imperfect people that I like. This was still totally worth reading and I think things started to change for me in the much latter part of the book but by then it was a bit late for me. I do think or hope another direction will be taken with the next book.
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Interview: Somain Chainani on The School for Good and EvilMy Profile

  3. Michelle @ In Libris Veritas

    I’m in love with the cover on this one. I really love the sound of the world building, which is my favorite part about fantasy novels…it really sucks that characters didn’t really shine and stand out but I’m glad that you enjoyed it quite a bit despite that. I’ll keep it on my TBR but I’ll keep this review in mind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Michelle @ In Libris Veritas recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Piss Me OffMy Profile

  4. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Interesting. I’ve just read two reviews for this one today, and they definitely are slightly different. I hate when I read a book where I realize I don’t care about any of the characters, it tends to leave me feeling detached and ambivalent.This gives me pause with this one. But, at the same time, there sounds to be much to love in the way of atmosphere and setting. I read one book where I felt the book really centered on the the city instead of any particular characters (The City by Stella Gemmel). It worked really well in that book. Perhaps if the city is featured in such a way in this as well, it is worth overlooking the more typical characters not having the appeal.
    Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Moon’s Artifice by Tom LloydMy Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      I think it was probably Nathan’s review that you read and he definitely has a greater appreciation for fantasy with political and societal issues. I do find the city and society and its politics fascinating, it was just hard for me to attach to the characters because you see so strongly all of their faults. I totally think the author did this on purpose it just made things hard for me. This is still worth a read for sure. Most other readers I know gave it 4 or above. I would be interested to see what you think!
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Interview: Somain Chainani on The School for Good and EvilMy Profile

  5. Nathan (@reviewbarn)

    Good timing, I posted a review today as well. I think I liked it a bit more than you, but I love the political tales and probably DID spend my time over thinking it. I understand about the characters though, this is not a book for people who have to like a character, all were deeply flawed.

    I saw it is a tale of power, where each person thinks that if they can only gain a little more control (no matter what the means) then THAT is when they can actually make a difference.
    Nathan (@reviewbarn) recently posted…Fantasy Review: ‘Unwrapped Sky’ by Rjurik DavidsonMy Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      I did enjoy it but I do think that it was only my failure to attach sufficiently to the characters that hampered some of my enjoyment. I did still think the world building was amazing and was a very solid debut.

      You describe it perfectly. Very much a tale of power. Jealous of your ability to accurately put your thoughts on it together so well.
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Interview: Somain Chainani on The School for Good and EvilMy Profile

  6. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    As much as I love a well-built world, the characters and my connection to them are what really makes a book work for me. Add to that a story rife with tragedy, and I’m not sure this one is for me. Which is unfortunate b/c I was hoping to like it. Well, it’s an awesome cover anyway–I love the minotaur/Tauren looking fellow 😉
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: Generation V by M.L. BrennanMy Profile

  7. Charleen

    I’m not quite sure what to make of your mixed feelings. I don’t necessarily need to like a character, but I do need to like reading about them, otherwise what’s the point? Seems like the world-building made up for it though.
    Charleen recently posted…PDF ARCs Are the Worst!My Profile

  8. Emily @ Oh Magic Hour

    I was on the fence on this one, but was totally sold on it by this review. I don’t automatically hate it if I can’t connect with characters (I actually had this problem in my last read), but it usually DOES keep a book from being a 5-star read for me. It’s not one I will avoid, and world-building can totally make it recover for me, but it’s good to know what I’m getting into.
    Emily @ Oh Magic Hour recently posted…Book Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Clare NorthMy Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      I’m so glad to hear it. I am the same way – just because I don’t love a character doesn’t mean that the book itself isn’t still really great. Agreed like you it will usually keep it from being a 5 star for me as well but I think for other readers that can get behind those characters if the world building is already so fabulous then it would be an amazing book for them. Heck I have another friend who was wowed by this book. The atmosphere and world he creates is so fascinating.
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Meet the Characters of DEEP BLUE by Jennifer Donnelly & GiveawayMy Profile