City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the second book by Tchaikovsky that I have read (the first being a SciFi story) and this author is quickly becoming a favorite that I will buy on sight. To start with, being a logophile, the story here was a veritable playground of obscure english vocabulary within a context that often used the 4th or 5th definition to give the reader an exotic feel within just inventing new words. This all facilitates some of the best world-building that has ever come my way, creating a dark, gritty foundation that was extremely easy to visualize and enter into. The only downside here was that the rich prose was so complex that it slowed down my reading speed quite a bit, although that also enabled me to better enjoy the beauty of it all. Definitely a fan here. For those having trouble keeping track of everything, there is a gloss in the front.
The world is an interesting dystopia with an occupying force dedicated to the rational perfection of their world, by force if necessary (aka an authoritarian society). The City is a crossroads of sorts, with the soldiers of the perfect trying to control a diverse population previously under the thrall of magic and miracles while expanding through a mystical forest to dimensions unknown (although the beasts within are very dangerous and should not be taken for granted). Close by is the Reproach, a ruined part of the old city barely contained by sigils and wards to keep ghosts of long dead nobles from driving men mad. Wondering amongst all of this are priests and forgotten gods, sorcerers and demons (who power the factories of the Hammer districts), prideful academics keeping the flame of resistance alive, and typical street toughs (who rule the Gutter districts) and a rather eclectic collection of immigrants and refugees .. giving the world a feeling of depth rarely encountered in a single book and left me wanting more.
There are a lot of POV characters in this story; and that is usually a bad thing, but the author makes this work better than most. Each character seemed to be fairly unique with something that actually added to the story when they were appropriately introduced … weaving in and out of the main plot so skillfully that each switch felt natural … and I enjoyed most of them … even the bad guys. All of the motivations seemed reasonable and even somewhat predictable within the evolving chaos of the story (most of the action are the characters reacting to what just happened prior). The interactions between them all kept me guessing on where the story was headed all the way to the end with several notable mysteries and surprises. This works well with all of the political intrigue that is front loaded, but the action does pick up with some character weeding towards the end (not a big deal as you don’t really spend enough time with any of them to get attached).
I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
View all my reviews
My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.