Sunday, September 13, 2015

Review: Cities and Thrones by Carrie Patel

Cities and Thrones
Author:  Carrie Patel
Series:  Recoletta 2
Publisher:  Angry Robot, July 7, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print); $6.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780857665539 (print); 9780857665546 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

In the fantastical, gaslit underground city of Recoletta, oligarchs from foreign states and revolutionaries from the farming communes vie for power in the wake of the city’s coup. The dark, forbidden knowledge of how the city came to be founded has been released into the world for all to read, and now someone must pay.

Inspector Liesl Malone is on her toes, trying to keep the peace, and Arnault’s spy ring is more active than ever. Has the city’s increased access to knowledge put the citizens in even more danger? Allegiances change, long-held beliefs are adjusted, and things are about to get messy.

File Under: Fantasy [ Buried Cities / Secrets & Lies / Revolutionary / Total War ]

Melanie's Thoughts

Cities and Thrones starts not long after the dramatic events of book 1  - The Buried Life which finds Jane and Freddie above ground and far away from everything they know in their former home of Recoletta. Back in Recoletta the city has not fully recovered from the overthrow of the government. Liesl finds herself still chasing thieves and conspiracies through the now broken streets of the city wondering if Sato overthrowing Ruther's corrupt government has really made life any better for the city's inhabitants. Jane and Freddie end up in Madina along with a number of other refugees from Recoletta. Unexpectedly Jane lands herself a job in the Majlis which I took to believe was something similar to a civil court. Her role is to act as a liaison with between the city and the refugees from Recoletta which by its very nature brings her in contact with leaders of the city. She tries to keep her head down and do her job but fate draws her back into the world of watching, listening and uncovering secrets. Liesl however, wants nothing to do with secrets but when Sato sends her to the surface and to the farming communities who supply Recoletta with food it becomes apparent that she can't easily avoid being drawn into more secrets and lies. Conspiracies and mysteries abound in Cities and Thrones.  Still very central to the overall plot is the Library which holds the secrets of their past and which Ruthers didn't want anyone to know and Sato overthrew a government to find out. The various plot threads all come together in an action packed and exciting end at the Library that leaves the reader on a knife edge all the way through.

Patel continues to develop an interesting and rich environment for her characters to live. From the broken tunnels of Recoletta, to the rustic farmlands, to the opulence of Madina Patel paints a landscape that colourful and austere in equal measure. Patel describes Jane's new life in Madina so well that you can easily imagine her walking through the gilded labyrinth of the Maglis, taste the hot sweet tea she pretends to enjoy and feel the brush of her head scarf across her cheek. It does however, feel that Patel spent more time writing the chapters involving Jane and Madina than she did with Liesl, either in Recoletta or in the farming communities. These chapters weren't as descriptive or as engaging as those involving Jane.

I enjoyed this book, as much as I did book 1. However, I still don't believe that Patel has developed her characters as well as she has the setting or the plotline. I commented in my review of The Buried Life that the story was weak on characterisation and I feel this is still the case with book 2. We do get to learn a bit more about Jane's parents and how she came to be a laundress in Recoletta but this almost seemed a bit of a teaser rather than making Jane a fully rounded character. I still don't feel like I know much more about Liesl than I did during the first book which I find disappointing as there could be so much more to say about her.  If I had to do a comparison of the characterisation in this novel I would describe Patel's characters like a sketch where the artist hasn't finished colouring them in yet. Almost there but not quite.

Patel does excel at creating an engaging plot. I really had to keep on my toes to keep up with the various twists and turns and political machinations that are involved in the latter chapters of the book. It was clear that Jane and Liesl are just pawns in the very long game to get access to the Library. I was on the edge of my proverbial seat during the last few chapters.  Even with the lack of well rounded characters Cities and Thrones is a great book and I am really looking forward to finding out what is inside the Library and what part Liesl and Jane play in this discovery


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