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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
Babylon Steel (Babylon Steel 1)
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on 3 November 2017
What I liked most about this novel was it constantly kept me guessing. It is very orignal in it's conception and for once I had no idea where I was going with it.

Babylon the titular character is a lady with a past. To begin with it seems that the mystery here is the whereabouts of a young missing girl, but it soons becomes evident that our heroine who just happens to be the owner of a brothel where her crew, the workers there are also her closest friends, has more to worry about than that.
The story is told using alternating past and present stories, weaving the young Ebi's story with the present day Babylon Steel.

Although this is set in a very alien world, it is very easy to empathsize with the characters who exhibit very human traits and root for them. I honestly found this unputdownable and look forward to the next chapter in this series and being able to see the central participants grow.
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on 17 March 2018
I quite often buy books on offer cheaply as I like a bargain and a wide variety of genres. This means I read a lot if average books. Once in a blue twomoon, however I come across a real nugget of exceptional writing - and this is one of those!

You get a lot of pages for your pennies - so many fantasy authors churn out short books in a series of sagas, containing mediocre storylines with a cliffhanger ending to entice you to buy in to the next. Not so with Babylon - a full and compelling read, with well rounded and thought out characters and an unfolding storyline which comes together beautifully.

Another issue I have with the plethora of fantasy books out there is getting to know the races / pronounce their names / differing abilities etc., Sebold, however, introduces her disparate characters well so that you feel like you’re actually becoming friends / enemies with them personally.

An excellent read, would definitely recommend
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VINE VOICEon 18 January 2012
Babylon Steel, former sword-for-hire and prostitute, runs a brothel called The Red Lantern in Scalentine, a hub city containing portals to different lands. Unfortunately, business hasn't been great and with a massive tax bill looming, Babylon needs money fast. Salvation comes from Darask Fain in the Diplomatic Section, who commissions her to find a missing Guidain heiress who's presumed to have been kidnapped just before her important political betrothal to another Gudain family.

But this is a bad time for an investigation. The approaching Two-Moon (when both of Scalentine's moons are full), means there's a lot of craziness about. A religious order called the Vessels of Purity are campaigning against prostitution and threatening the Lantern and someone's brutally beating up prostitutes. Worse is the arrival of a group of people from Babylon's past, a past that she thought she'd escaped for good, and which threatens to destroy everything she's worked so hard for ...

Gaie Sebold's debut novel is an epic fantasy featuring a strong, sexually confident woman who controls her own destiny.

Babylon's chatty, first-person voice carries you through the various plot strands. It's refreshing to read fantasy with a female character who knows what she wants and what she likes and while Babylon might not be great at asking for help, she understands when she's outgunned and is competent at what she does. I enjoyed her relationship with her brothel's crew, particularly with Previous, an ex-mercenary who works as a guard, and Precious, the huge, scaly cook. I also liked the way Sebold mixes in Babylon's backstory, as an abandoned orphan on Tiresana, a dying land under the control of ruthless Avatars.

There's a lot of plot, perhaps too much as the last quarter rushes to tie up all of the loose ends. There are also a lot of side characters and at times, I did find it a little difficult to keep the names straight - a character list would really help.

The world-building is great, with Sebold creating a vivid impression of Scalentine, its various quarters, its diverse, multi-species population and the portals that are so important to its existence. If I have one plea it's for a city map in the next book, so you can see the scale more visually.

In conclusion, this is an assured epic fantasy debut novel offering strong storytelling and stronger female characters and as such is well worth a look.
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on 7 January 2012
Babylon Steel is an ex sword-for-hire who runs the Red Lantern, a high class brothel in Scalentine, city of many portals. When she has a few problems balancing the accounts and having enough ready cash to pay her taxes she takes on a missing person case from the mysterious Darask Fain against her better judgment. Along the way she runs into trouble from the prudish Vessels of Purity religion and the past she's tried to leave behind finally catches up with her. Its a fine rollicking adventure tale with an interesting female lead and a collection of colourful characters as Scalentine, having many portals, is a melting pot of people from many planes. There is a good dollop of mystery, some magic (its a multiverse where you can hop from world to world using portals and there are some "glamour" style spells but no-one throwing fireballs) and an interesting world(s). It was a very enjoyable debut and I look forward to seeing what Sebold does next. Recommended to all lovers of fantasy.
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on 5 April 2012
This one is right on the cusp of fantasy and sci-fi - a city filled with alien races, surrounded by portals to other planes which come and go mysteriously, and are not understood by anyone. Is this magic or a lost technology? But there is a certain amount of magic in this universe, both learned and innate, and gods and demi-gods as well. There is enough inventiveness here to satisfy the needs of the most demanding of fantasy world connoisseurs, with languages and bizarre races and strange mannerisms and belief systems splattered around with gay abandon. Fey folk? Check. Were-beasts? Check. Lizard people? Check. Caterpillary things? Check. Fades, who didn't quite make it through a portal? Yep, got them too. And sex. Lots of sex, everyone having sex with everyone else, furred, scaled or feathered, male, female or hermaphrodite. So if you think mildly graphic lizard/human sex would turn your stomach, this is not the book for you.

The book has two different threads which (and this isn't giving much away) blend together quite early on, and each illuminates the other rather well. The main thread, as it were, that of brothel-keeper Babylon, quickly develops into a sort of find-the-missing-girl mystery, which conveniently takes her into every nook and cranny of the extraordinary city of Scalentine, so we get to hang out in a lot of bars and brothels and unsavoury back-street locations, and meet many of the city's weird inhabitants. This is quite fun, up to a point, but after a while it becomes really difficult to keep the various characters straight. Is this the lizardy one or the one with cute little wings? Or maybe the one whose portal magic went wrong and left him a sort of emotion-sucking vampire? Boy, there are some weird things (people? creatures?) in this book. Thank goodness for the Kindle search facility.

Scalentine feels very real - a truly vibrant melting pot of cultures, without the chaotic and dismal nature of many fantasy settings. Yes, there are scams and thieves and the occasional murder, but the citizens are (mostly) protected by a quite efficient administration. It feels like a rather civilised place, on the whole, although I thought the Red Lantern was a little too laid back to be a well-run business. No wonder it was in some financial difficulties. But the names - ! Previous? A pair of bondage specialists called Cruel and Unusual? Chief Bitternut?? Enthemmerlee??? Fantasy names are always difficult, but still...

The main plot of the missing girl quickly got tedious but fortunately the focus of the second thread, the Avatars of Tiresana, takes over and things get more lively. There are also a number of minor mysteries sprinkled throughout the book to keep things bubbling along. And yes, everything builds to a suitably dramatic finale, and if sometimes the uncovering of vital information felt just a little too convenient and glib, and if the ending was a little underwhelming, and if Babylon was just a little bit too resourceful and implausibly popular, it's easy enough to get swept along in the excitement and just enjoy the ride. This is not a book where an overly critical and logical mind is called for.

This is a fun read, a hugely imaginative piece of work, with vivid characters (even the ones with tails or tusks or issues with full moons), and a good pacy story (or cluster of stories, really - there's a lot going on), and the author manages to take several swipes at organised religion along the way. I liked the chatty first person narration, which brings out Babylon's self-confidence mixed with moments of terror perfectly, and is often very funny. I thought the two parallel threads, Scalentine and Tiresana, worked brilliantly to add depth to the story. I'm not quite sure where things go from here - a pointer to a possible sequel was squeezed in rather clumsily at the end, but whether this is going to be a trilogy or a series isn't clear. Whatever it turns out to be, this is a great start to it - four stars.
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2012
This is a fantasy romp featuring the titular Babylon Steel, a brothel madam/swordmistress who lives on the chaotic and varied Scalentine, a tiny plane which is fed by a number of magical portals disgorging numerous strange refugees and other travellers. Babylon herself has been one such refugees, but having settled down in Scalentine she will find that she and her crew at the Red Lantern will be drawn into the search for a missing girl which will culminate in a confrontation between her and the mysterious past she's left behind.

The writing is great - Gaie has a light, lucid prose style and the city shows a fantastic and playful inventiveness. Babylon is a tough but likeable heroine ably supported by a well-drawn supporting cast, and all in all, it's a wonderful fun read. Highly recommended.
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on 15 March 2018
I liked the premise of this book and it didn't disappoint. The narrative did get a bit laboured mid section, but an enjoyable read. I have a fondness for flawed, strong women, and Babylon was perfect. Loved the flippant descriptions of other characters as well.
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on 29 July 2012
This is a pacey romp (in both senses of the word), with twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned plot-guesser interested until the end. The light and witty narrative is a delight to read.

There's a whole multitude of diverse characters of all kinds of races (although perhaps a couple too many for my brain to keep track of), each with their own agenda.

As the novel progresses, it's clear the novel back story (of which we have snippets throughout the book) is going to be increasingly important to the conclusion, and all the loose ends tie together in a satisfactory way.

It's an impressive debut, and I look forward to reading the next in the series.
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VINE VOICEon 23 June 2012
This was a real pleasure and a great debut. Set in a world that has portals to other worlds and places we have a city with an eclectic mix of species and culture. Within it is our heroine Babylon (and we see her backstory gradually as the story progresses) who runs a whorehouse. Yep, there is the odd sex scene (and I do mean `odd') but the story is about politics, murder and intrigue. And it works very well indeed, with well-rounded and believable characters and a plot that is surprisingly interesting and thoughtful.
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on 16 March 2018
Long winded, I got about a quarter of the way through and still waiting for some thing to happen in the story.
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