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May 31, 2013 / minusbar

Book Review: The City, by Stella Gemmell

Book Review: “The City” by Stella Gemmell

Woah. It’s amazing how a book can drag you through so many ranges of emotions and opinions over the course of reading it. I started “The City” by Stella Gemmell because I have long been a fan of her late husband, David. After having finished the novel, I must say that Stella Gemmell is an impressive and vividly imaginative author that more delivers on the continued quality writing that has been associated with the Gemmell name. I’ve become engrossed with the world she has created and will highly anticipate any future works by her.

The City is ancient, layers upon layers. Once a thriving metropolis, it has sprawled beyond its bounds, inciting endless wars with neighboring tribes and creating a barren wasteland of what was once green and productive.
In the center of the City lives the emperor. Few have ever seen him, but those who have recall a man in his prime, though he should be very old. Some grimly speculate that he is no longer human, if he ever was. A small number have come to the desperate conclusion that the only way to stop the war is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.
From the mazelike sewers below the City, where the poor struggle to stay alive in the dark, to the blood-soaked fields of battle, where few heroes manage to endure the never-ending siege, the rebels pin their hopes on one man—Shuskara. The emperor’s former general, he was betrayed long ago and is believed to be dead. But, under different aliases, he has survived, forsaking his City and hiding from his immortal foe. Now the time has come for him to engage in one final battle to free the City from the creature who dwells at its heart, pulling the strings that keep the land drenched in gore.

The City is a dark and gritty novel. Sewers, grime, blood and treachery ooze out of the pages. The balancing between the gloomy atmosphere created and the intense action sequences throughout made for a thoroughly enjoyable dark fantasy read. There is mystery and intrigue, and deceit behind nearly every face. I enjoyed that there was never a time where I found myself knowing the next step and waiting for the motions. This is a very unique fantasy novel that focuses more on the brutality and harsh realities than the fantastical elements.

The pacing at times was very slow, particularly toward the beginning. I did not find myself wholly engrossed with the story until around page 200-250 or so. However, the payoff proved to be well worth it and the stories last 200 pages where gone in a flash. Once the characters fully took shape in my mind and the plot started to be revealed the pages went by quickly.

I’d definitely recommend this novel to fans of gritty fantasy. However, I’d suggest shying away if you’re not willing to commit to a decent chunk of pages before the story takes you. Remember that big stories in even larger worlds require time to setup and flesh out. If you show some patience and give this one a chance, you’ll be greatly rewarded with what I believe is one of the better fantasy novels I’ve read in the last several years.

The story stands alone, but gosh I hope she writes a sequel!

This book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. It is available for purchase starting June 4th here.


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