Verdict: Slow to start, brilliant second half.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Published by Jo Fletcher Books, August 23rd 2018
The city of Tevanne runs on scrivings, industrialised magical inscriptions that make inanimate objects sentient; they power everything, from walls to wheels to weapons. Scrivings have brought enormous progress and enormous wealth – but only to the four merchant Houses who control them. Everyone else is a servant or slave, or they eke a precarious living in the hellhole called the Commons.
There’s not much in the way of work for an escaped slave like Sancia Grado, but she has an unnatural talent that makes her one of the best thieves in the city. When she’s offered a lucrative job to steal an ancient artefact from a heavily guarded warehouse, Sancia agrees, dreaming of leaving the Commons – but instead, she finds herself the target of a murderous conspiracy. Someone powerful in Tevanne wants the artefact, and Sancia dead – and whoever it is already wields power beyond imagining.
Sancia will need every ally, and every ounce of wits at her disposal, if she is to survive – because if her enemy gets the artefact and unlocks its secrets, thousands will die, and, even worse, it will allow ancient evils back into the world and turn their city into a devastated battleground.
I am such a huge fan of Robert Jackson Bennett’s style of fantasy, I practically jumped when I realized he has a new series starting this year. This book featured prominently on my most anticipated releases list and I am happy to report that I enjoyed it a whole lot, for the most part. I have spent the better part of two weeks trying to come up with a way to review this book. I am such a huge fan of Bennett’s work and his ideas and there is in fact a lot to adore here, but I also need to be honest. It took me more than half of this book to really find my groove. It’s not like the first have is bad but my expectations were so very high. And if I didn’t have this much trust in his imagination I might have given up. I am glad I persevered because the pay off really is worth it.
What Bennett does best is creating these really unique worlds that feel lived in and plausible and very very well thought out. Here he gives us a spin on industrialized (and monopolized) magic with just the right amount of mysticism to be exciting and new. He does set up his world a little too well though in the beginning, the info-dump did start to grate and I am not sure I need to be reminded of the magic system’s rules as often as I was here (this is something that bores me in a lot of very descriptive high fantasy though, so you probably should take my opinion with a grain of salt). When everything came together though, I was very glad for him to have taken his time establishing the world because those last 50 pages? They were pure perfection. I cannot wait where this goes next.
Another thing I appreciate about Bennett’s writing is the way his female character feel properly realized and wonderfully easy to root for. I wanted Sancia to be happy so bad and I love how authentic she felt. I like that she her behaviour always made sense in relation to what we as readers know of her. Gregor on the other hand did feel for too long like a cartoon character but again, the pay off here was really worth it in the end. Bennett has really interesting things to say about agency and fate and I am so here for this.
I received this arc courtesy of NetGalley and Quercus Publishing/ Jo Fletcher Books in exchange for an honest review.