City of Lies by Sam Hawke

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This is the first book in a while that I’ve read that wasn’t a review request! It was just something I’ve wanted to read for a bit but haven’t had the time. It feels like everyone on Discord has been yelling about this book, so when I got my audible credit this month I decided to try it out! I’ll try and grab proper spelling from the blurb, but if it’s not in the blurb it’s probably spelled wrong – sorry!

Rebels are camped outside the walls of Salista and tensions are growing as the people within the city run out of options. The city is getting desperate as food supplies start to dwindle leaving the citizens with weak broth and millet to sustain them for an undetermined period of time. All of the edible plants have been used, all of the animals have been slaughtered and to make matters worse the food supplies are being raided. The army outside is building siege towers which would allow them to overrun the walls without the exposure and risk of using ladders, the towers could be devastating if successfully deployed.

The story follows two POV’s, Jovan and his sister Kalina as they try and avert an all-out battle within their city. They are resorting to drastic measures, even tearing down their own bridges to try and fortify their position. The Chancellor, Tain, has recently come into his position after a death, and is now the heir to the city state which could soon fall to ruins. I actually really liked Tain, he had a good heart, good intentions, and was truly remorseful about everything that lead up to the rebellion, knowing that it was the city’s fault this was happening, but at a loss on how to fix it. Jovan is Tain’s “proofer” or food tester. It’s supposed to be a secret, and he’s kept it under wraps for years. His whole family’s purpose is being the proofer’s for the Chancellor’s family. He’s studied his whole life how to detect different sorts of poisons by taste, and know which antidote to use. He’s even built up immunity to many different kinds of poisons which lessens his risks being the first to taste the food.

Unfortunately, Tain was under the impression that food-tasting was a low priority given everything that was going on, and broke Jovan’s rules about not eating anything unless Jovan had tried it first – and he done got poisoned.

From there, the story focuses on two plots – the inevitable invading force, and who the hell poisoned the Chancellor. With every chapter that went by, I kept changing my mind on who was the poisoner and why they would have done it. It absolutely kept me guessing for a little while which is sort of a must for a mystery story.

Magic in this world isn’t well known, in fact the first time it shows up in the form of wind being directed by the rebels, Jovan didn’t believe what he was seeing at first. It took him a long time to accept that what he saw was Darfi magic (rebels race/culture). The Darfi believe in spirits and that the spirits are rejuvenated by human emotions given as a gift. There were once many tribes of Darfi who would come together for a festival that was all about gifting emotions to the spirits so they could live for another year. It was said that children conceived during this time would grow up to be the strongest, and the wisest among them. There’s a spirit of the lake, Osweren, that comes into play later on in the story, and there’s an old ritual that the Salistian’s were performing for centuries without knowing its origins. The spirit of the lake is the one that guides the dead over to the afterlife, and the knowledge and wisdom of that person pass over to the spirit. There are a lot of traditions and childrens songs that have had their meanings lost to time, only to be rediscovered during the siege as Jovan searches for answers on how to fix relations between the Salistian’s and the Darfi rebels.

I liked both POV’s, but I found that I connected more to Jovian than I did to Kalina. It’s possible this was due to the narrators, I liked the male narrator for the audiobook a bit more than I liked the female narrator so that very well may have tainted my opinion. I’ve seen a few reviewers say they had a hard time distinguishing the difference between the two POV’s which could be due to the dual first-person pov approach. However, I really didn’t struggle with this – it would be impossible to not notice that the narrators had switched. On top of that though, I felt like both of them were pretty different. Where Kalina was more emotional and choked back tears and didn’t trust herself to speak on several occasions, Jovan found himself monotone and cold during distressing and emotional moments struggling to put the emotions he felt into his voice. Things like that made them feel very different to me.  Jovan also had an interesting relationship with a Darfi woman who really captured my attention every time she was in a scene. She was a big part of the world building as she introduced her culture, religion, and customs of her people to Jovan. I think because I found her so interesting I really got into that romance and was genuinely excited when they reconcile after fighting.

Overall I really, really enjoyed myself with this one and will absolutely be continuing on with the series! For anyone looking for something a little different with a lot of mystery and intrigue, this is your book!

Audience:

  • First person multi pov
  • female pov
  • poisons
  • politics
  • mystery/whodunnit
  • spirits/gods
  • city under siege

Ratings:

  • Plot: 13.5/15
  • Characters: 13/15
  • World Building: 13/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 12/15
  • Originality: 12.5/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 8/10

Final Score: 84/100 = 4.5/5 stars highly recommended !!

2 comments

  1. I’m seeing this book a lot recently on goodreads and social media, but most of the reviewers seemed to feel kind of meh about it. Great to read some feedback from someone who enjoyed the story!

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