City of Bones: Updated and Revised Edition by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Charisat is the City of Bones … built on the decaying bones of an Ancient civilization that fell when the Wastes rose up to consume the world … or perhaps it takes it name from the practice of burning human[oid] bones to some necromantic effect. Regardless, it is the most powerful Trade City in the authoritarian dystopian landscape that remains with a stratified power structure, giving raise to very believable biases and prejudice based on which “tier” of the city they have access to … patricians and elites with their warders at the top and destitute at the bottom 8th tier. The system is stacked against outsiders (non-citizens).
The main character is doubly an outsider, being denied any change of citizenship because of his heritage as a “krisman” or desert person; a genetically altered human designed to withstand the dangers and hazards of the Waste where most of the flora and fauna want to kill you. The obvious mystery here is what happened to destroy the world of the Ancients? The answer here becomes a central part of the overall plot … and doesn’t get much play until the action picks up in the second half of the story. Still, the fantastic and somewhat unique take on world-building and character introduction of Khat and his supporting cast in the first 25% kept me fully engaged … with the next quarter starting to drag somewhat.
The story opens with Khat, desperate to get out from under his debt to the merchant crime lord, agrees to take a group of elites out into the Wastes on a Relic hunt … which quickly the rails to bring the Khat into the dangerous realm of elite power games, where his somewhat hidden talents help figure out the various puzzles and mysteries (a la Indiana Jones). Along the way, we get a little more backstory, but not enough to completely dispel the shadows (and this helps give the world a feel of incredible depth). And the interplay between all of the characters allows for some interesting social elements without being overly preaching (letting the PoV speak for itself). Finally … the plot is fairly predictable, so the small twists you get along the way keep it interesting and entertaining.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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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.