The use of magic is forbidden to the residents of Khaim, except for the Magister, because magic causes the growth of the deadly vines that threaten to swallow the city and all its inhabitants. A touch from the hungry vines, referred to as the bramble, will sink anyone into a deep sleep and eventually death, the toxins persevering their bodies until mother nature’s creatures come for them.
Review by Milliebot Reads
Hardcover, 295 pages
2018, Saga Press
I won’t say any more about the plot than that – but I will say that this book is comprised of four sections, each following a different character and their families, as they struggle to survive in the city of Khaim.
This book was SO GOOD. I didn’t take a single note because I was too busy reading. I read the majority of the book in one sitting and was tempted to cancel my plans the next night so I could finish it! I don’t even know what to say!
I’m already a fan of Paolo Bacigalupi, but Tobias Buckell’s work is new to me. I’m pleased to say that while each wrote two stories, the tones were similar so they blended seamlessly. Maybe that’s a negative for some of you, but I prefer co-written books to feel like they were written by the same person, or two people on the same wavelength.
This world. Oh man. I NEED to know more about Khaim and the lost city of Jhandpara and what the heck caused the bramble! It was so creepy. I don’t think I’ve read about a plant that icked me out before. But the way these things are described – hairy and wiggling and pale and constantly reaching out to take your life. They also reminded me a bit of the crazy plants from Jumanji because they can turn up unexpectedly basically anywhere and if they touch you, you’re poisoned!
We get perspectives from an alchemist working to provide for his family by inventing something that could potentially destroy the bramble, a woman who leaves the city to follow the raiders that stole her children, a boy and his sister who are refugees in Khaim after their own city was overcome by bramble, and a blacksmith’s daughter who must complete a suit of armor for a baron in order to save her family.
Each story came with its own heartbreak and each was left open-ended enough that I was desperate for more, but with enough closure for them to be considered complete. Part of me hopes that all the characters get a continuation of their stories, but another part hopes they don’t because I love the mystery and the feels. The alchemist was maybe my favorite character to follow, only because so much of the world was developed through him and his ending had the most left to explore. But each story was fantastic and really gave a feel for how the average citizen of Khaim struggles to make a living, avoid the vicious eye of the rich and keep the bramble from putting them to sleep.
This is a fantastic fantasy novel…collection…whatever! If you like fantasy and fallen cities and downtrodden characters with heart and determination and also some feels, I highly recommend this book. Bacigalupi and Buckell better write more in this world ASAP!
I received this book for free from Saga Press in exchange for an honest review.