The City Hardcover – 25 Apr 2013
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"The most satisfying, intelligent and enthralling epic fantasy I've read in many a year" (JULIET McKENNA)
"An astonishing book . . . combines extraordinary scope with first class characterization, devastating and visceral battles, a multi-layered plot and a tightly-focused narrative . . . The City is easily the best fantasy novel I've read in the last decade" (JAMES BARCLAY)
"One of the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time . . . utterly compelling fiction, an awesome example of the genre . . . brilliant" (SF BOOK REVIEWS)
"A brutally visual world . . . vivid, motivated characters each with a heartbreaking history . . . thrilling and devastating . . . a true epic" (SCIFI NOW)
"A sweeping novel of great power" (TOR.COM)
One of the legendary names in genre fiction returns - an astonishing debut fantasy novel from Stella Gemmell, wife of the late, great and bestselling David Gemmell...See all Product description
Top customer reviews
As in David Gemmell's books, this one is loosely built around history. Although the plot is set in an entirely fictional world, the City and the Empire around seemed (to me at least) to be largely derived from the City of Byzantium and the Byzantine Empire. Several other themes and types of characters which are present in previous books are also used.
One theme is the decline and decay of a once great Empire that is ruled by the remnants of an alien race - think of Echoes of the Great Song. Similar character types include the old general, past his prime and his glory, who makes a final comeback to save the sum of things, and several types of swordsman and swordswomen, noble by their deeds and, sometimes, their origins. Also included is the enduring and fiercely loyal giant (here a "northerner" which made me think of Varangian warriors) and the courtesan, among others.
The plot and the characters are however also quite different, and so is the book's tone. I will not mention much about the plot, to avoid spoilers, and will just mention that the Empire is locked into an endless war with most of its neighbours, a war that it is slowly losing, which its Emperor, who is called the Immortal, is determined to win just like all of the previous wars. Add to this is a whole atmosphere of treason, intrigues and political assassinations and you get a rather powerful, thrilling and action-packed cocktail which you will have trouble in putting down until you have finished the last page.
The book's tone and ending are generally rather sombre and somewhat pessimistic. The descriptions and sections about the City's underground life and environment are particularly horrific and griping. The characters are often not what and who they seem to be. Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and spent most of the week-end reading it non-stop. I do have a couple of reservations, however, with regards to the plot. At times, I found it unnecessarily complicated. I also was not entirely convinced with some of the "evil" characters' regrets. Unlike "Echoes of the Great Song", for instance, the disasters that occurr in the book are entirely the responsibility of the City's rulers. These appear as rather unsympathetic, cruel and inhuman, to put it mildly. They are driven by their own ambitions and seem to cara little for what can happen to their subjects.
I would certainly recommend this interesting book, especially for Gemmell fans, and I would rate it a solid four stars, but not quite five.
The story is intreguing and the characters well balanced and believable. It does require some effort to get into the story, but it was an enjoyable experience and I downloaded the Immrtal Throne as soon as I finished.
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