This book was on my Books I’m Excited for February, 2018. Like I said in my original post about it, the main reason I wanted to read this book was because its cover is one of the most beautiful book covers I have ever seen. I love photography that employs techniques like double exposure…but I’m getting gushy and, after all, a cover is just a cover and the words inside are the important part. And to be honestly, the cover was the only great part.
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Synopsis: Usually, I don’t do this, but I’m going to give first a synopsis from Goodreads and then one of my own (because the synopsis and the reality of the book are very different).
Goodreads Synopsis: “Khaim, The Blue City, is the last remaining city in a crumbled empire that overly relied upon magic until it became toxic. It is run by a tyrant known as The Jolly Mayor and his devious right hand, the last archmage in the world. Together they try to collect all the magic for themselves so they can control the citizens of the city. But when their decadence reaches new heights and begins to destroy the environment, the people stage an uprising to stop them.” (No, there’s no uprising…you sit on a throne of lies, synopsis!)
My Synopsis: In the city of Khaim, every time magic is used, poisonous brambles sneaks closer to the city, the last one standing in a fallen empire. This book tells four different stories within a city governed by corruption and perversion.
Before I start in with the major issues I had with this book, let me just say the world is exceptionally developed. It is an apocalyptic/dystopian world where every bit of magic causes poisonous brambles to grow (though it’s never explained in the book how and why this came about). If a person touches the brambles with their bare hands, the brambles snake through their body and throw them into an eternal sleep (something about that reminds me of the Disney Sleeping Beauty, where Maleficent puts everyone in the castle to sleep and then makes horrible thorns grow around it). The people react…in the most horrible and corrupt ways possible.
The book is comprised of four stories set in the same world—and mostly the same city—but otherwise not interconnected (I’ll get to my difficulty with this fact later). The titles of the four parts are The Alchemist, The Executioness, The Children of Khaim, and The Blacksmith’s Daughter.
I really enjoyed The Alchemist, though the other three fell flat for me.
There is no goodness in this world. If you are looking for a book where the people rise up against a tyrannical government and evil brambles (which was what I was expecting when I read the Goodreads synopsis), you will be sorely disappointed. Everyone is either a horrible person or they do horrible things in the name of good. I personally hate stories like that that force people to do evil things to survive.
The characters were interesting, but their motivations were repetitive and simple (I’ll get to that in my spoiler section).
I was disappointed that, outside of the world itself, the stories had no connection. My greatest problem with this is that it is not a collection of short stories—it has successive parts, for heaven sakes. Either write a book or write a collection of short stories, not both!
I feel like anything else I say now would spoil things, so let me go to the spoiler section!
I could break apart all the issues I had with the individual stories, but I think my point would be made just as good if I looked at all of them on a general level.
The main problem I had with this book is that it felt like the beginning of four books, instead of four separate stories or one book in four different parts. Each story introduced us to a conflict (Jeoz—The Alchemist—hoping to save his daughter, Mop—The Children of Khaim—trying to save his sister, etc.), but by the end none of the conflicts were resolved—save partially to the first, which is the only one I really liked.
In the second book, Tana—The Executioness—watches her two sons kidnapped by raiders and heads to save them. By the end, she has not made much progress and her sons are still missing. In The Children of Khaim, Mop’s sister falls into eternal sleep in the brambles and he hopes to save her. By the end, she is still asleep. In the final story—The Blacksmith’s Daughter—Sofija’s parents are imprisoned by Malabaz (the right hand archmage to the Mayor). In the end, her parents die but she doesn’t achieve anything.
The parts felt formulaic because they all revolved around a person doing evil things to try to save those they loved.
Like I said, these four parts felt like four beginnings to four different books. Even in short stories, there should be a rising action, climax, and resolution. None of these but the first had any of this. Even the first story—The Alchemist—had a lukewarm ending as Jeoz and his daughter escaped the city with little hopes for the future.
I took several pages of notes about the little issues I had with particular stories, but none of that makes much difference when the big plot is so poorly developed.
This book could have been great, if the authors had just stuck to one of the stories and developed it further. It is a pity, because the world is so interesting.
If you’ve read this book, what are your thoughts? I would love to know if you had a different perspective than me. Let me know down in the comments, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life of adventure,