by Robert Jackson Bennett
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Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the quiet woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters — dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem — and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.
► What a cruel, marvelous, surprising little thing.
STEP 1 : Be intrigued by this complex, original and fascinating world-building whose layers still hide so many gems (I’m sure of it).
STEP 2 : Let the stupefaction stun you when you discover how all the threads are carefully weaved, bringing together… Well : politics, opression, a murder mystery, religion, tolerance, identity, fanaticism, racism and the ever controversial question of the Greater Good whose relevance is never a sure thing (for whom, decided by whom, see)… etc etc etc. And you are not even bored (if you are, let it be known that I don’t do refunds).
STEP 3 : Be so fucking surprised that all this religious talk is not driving you nuts (okay, this one might be only for me) – actually, not that surprised : I’m interested in religion, as in : history and culture. I am not interested in being preached to. Guess what path the story took.
STEP 4 : Be amazed and a little in love with these FEMALE LEADS who put to shame every traditional Fantasy story which let us think that women are either queens or whores (tell me I’m wrong). Strong female leads can also be smart and fierce and driven and not the regular warrior either. Thank you Shara for showing us that we can be badass with our brain. (I love you too, Mulaghesh)
STEP 5 : Do not be fooled by thinking that these characters will be perfect or chosen or you know, heroes. Yet they’re not anti-heroes either : indeed all of them show their realism through the slow reveal of their flaws. You just wait.
STEP 7 : Bottle the laughs and smiles (and IN YOUR FACE, ASSHOLE! ← of course that’s a thing) whenever they’re thrown at you, because you’ll need them.
STEP 8 : Do not think for one second that your heart is safe. Conceited me, who thought that I could go through Bulikov without threatening my well-being. ERROR. ERROR. ERROR.
STEP 9 : Be compelled to keep reading because really? It’s not like you have a choice.
STEP 10 : Be aware that I overlooked some flaws, and I’m not even ashamed : mostly, a little too much telling in some parts and a deus-ex-machina-like character View Spoiler »Sigrud’s help seems a lot like it, to be honest – I still love him, duh. « Hide Spoiler. I DO NOT CARE.
THIS BOOK IS WORTHY.
Art by John Petersen (source) – Thanks Kat for the idea 🙂