I thought one of the best ways to get exciting new indie recommendations would be to ask some of my favourite indie authors for their picks. Intisar Khanani, author of Sunbolt and Thorn, recommended Rabia Gale.
Rainbird danced on the sunway to the singing of uncountable stars, music that only she could hear. Her trench coat, too large and shabby, smelling of cigar smoke and mothballs, flapped around her. Under the thick thirdhand fabric, her wings whispered, satin-starch-slither. Her long-toed bare feet skimmed the bumpy bone of the sunway, worn smooth and glittering by centuries of inspection. Her oversized lungs pulled in the thin cold air.
Rainbird rose up on her toes, spun, leapt high and proud like a horse, and landed perfectly. She dipped her head and knees in a curtsey to her celestial audience. Then she kissed her hand to Glew, the dim, faraway true sun of the purebred eiree. It glowered with sour malice, rheumy-eyed even this far above the clouds and the smoke, the haze and the lights of the cities of men.
Rainbird is half-human, half-eerie, and an outcast from both societies. She keeps her eerie wings hidden beneath a heavy coat and lives in secret with her father on the sunway, helping him to maintain the track of the Day Sun and trading illicit caches of moss for the drugs he needs to keep his lungsickness under control. If his manager discovers he’s too sick to work, he’ll be sent down to the surface for treatment, and Rainbird will be forced to leave her only haven.
The sunway is a track built into the spine of a long-decayed dragon skeleton, and gives Rainbird its distinctive setting. I loved the detail of the worldbuilding, particularly around the technological aspects, which have a surreal flavour, based as they are in the biomechanics of dragons. The dragon’s spinal column is used to transmit messages and power, nerves and sinews acting as cables. The Day Sun is an artificial star manufactured from the dragon’s eye tissue, set to traverse the sunway track on a daily cycle and light the regular human world below. The bone itself provides structure upon which the sunway communities are built.
Rainbird herself is a great character: a young woman dealing pragmatically with a continuous slew of threats to her lifestyle and very existence. She’s a competent engineer, holding down her father’s maintenance job, and she’s also his carer as his sickness worsens. To her eerie relatives, Rainbird is a mistake that should never have happened, an abomination that should have been exposed at birth. Her father loves her, and she him, but their position is fragile — made more so as the Morality League start clamping down on everything that makes the sunway safe. A beautiful, unusual adventure.
Rainbird is available from Amazon.