I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me…
Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.
But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry.
One of the things I enjoyed most about City of Lies is that it takes place almost entirely during a siege. I LOVE sieges and I don’t think we get enough of them in fantasy, or they’re usually not done well, especially in regards to how long they can last, etc. It also gives the opportunity for siege weapons to be used which, lets face it, can be pretty damn awesome. (Who doesn’t love a trebuchet or a siege tower, or vats of hot oil being thrown over a wall? Wait, am I weird? Ahem.) Anyway, I really enjoyed all the seige aspects of this story worked. The feeling of being trapped was conveyed really well, and even though it’s an entire city there is a certain clausterphobic feeling that starts to come through after a while. I enjoyed the various battle strategies being under siege forced, some of which involved blunt force, some making strategic sacrifcies, and others using trickery….and that this reminded us that not all battles are won or lost overnight (actually, is that even the norm or do we just think it is because fiction and movies get it wrong so often?). I also loved all the logistical problems this created for the characters in the city which put them on a timer, things like running out of food and not having a stash of conventional weopons on hand, or running low on medicine. Starvation and disease are probably more deadly in sieges than the actual battling….okay, enough about sieges lets get into some other things (did I mention that I love sieges?).
The characters in this are well-written and easy to connect to–Sam Hawke does a fantastic job putting us in their shoes, letting us get to see what they want out of life and how they’re feeling at any given moment. I will say for me, personally, it did take me a little while to connect to them but I think that may have been some personal things I was going through while starting this book and nothing to do with the way the characters are written as everything is there from the start–their wants and needs and fears and their relationships with one another. We’re introduced to them and things get going pretty fast. I liked a lot of the side characters as well, and because the plot centers around a murder mystery that has far reaching consequences (and is part of a larger conspiracy to take over control of the government) there are lots of characters that you don’t quote know how to trust, even if they seem super trust-worthy. At a certain point, just like our main characters, you suddenly start to question everyone. Sometimes it’s too late. Welp. But what I really love about the characters is that they’re really good people trying to do the right thing, it’s just that figuring out the right thing isn’t always easy, especially when others are trying to manipulate things. Lastly, I love that the characters are dealing with some disabilities, and while they have impacts on their lives, they’re not letting their disabilities rule their lives. As someone with chronic anxiety and depression, I think that’s an important distinction.
So, like I said earlier, it did take me a little while to get into the story, despite the amazing way it starts off with stuff going down right from the get-go (the author really doesn’t waste any time with a bunch of boring set up here). Not sure why but it’s probably a ‘me’ thing and not so much relating to the book itself. Once the characters start figuring out that there’s more going on than what appears on the surface is when things really started getting interesting for me. I love mysteries. I also love big reveals and when all is not what you think it is, when the author can pull the rug out from under you a bit.
To sum up, I really enjoyed this one! It’s a siege centered murder mystery featuring some poisoning here and there along with three friends trying to do their best when responsibility for the fate of a kingdom is suddenly foisted upon them when they weren’t expecting it. If any of that sounds appealing to you, I’d suggest checking this one out. 4/5 stars.