This book was a lovely surprise! I was somewhat worried in the beginning, as classical fantasy tends to bore me rather easily these days… But « City of broken magic » has some real personality and some excellent characters, and consequently my reading was great!
To begin with the minor flaws. They’re all of the same trend, about some rather confusing points: nothing really problematic, just small ideas you keep wondering about in the back of your mind. Some explanations come rather too late, for instance; the town which seemed smaller for me than it must be, as another exemple. Also that I thought for a while that Amicae was absolutely cut from other towns, except for controlled commerce, and was surprised to see that comings and goings were authorized, that trips were perfectly possible, if uncommon. So, nothing big really. In fact the most annoying point is the book’s presentation, which is half false, implying that there are Mages using magic (they aren’t really, magic comes from a mineral which can infused some objects and give them magical energy, so using magic is up to anybody wealthy enough to buy magic infused amulets) and also that the heroine will have to fight all alone – false again. In fact the truth is much more interesting and I don’t understand why this presentation is so wrong! Well, let’s hope that some changes will be made before publishing date…
Now that this small matter of vagueness is set, lets talk about the good things!
I liked the author imagination and the world building. And if it’s sometimes a little fuzzy around the edges it’s quite counterbalanced by its personality and originality. One could easily imagine some kind of nice developments in this world, and I hope there will be!
The action, which evolves by spurts (as most of the job is about waiting, preparing and tiding) is quite good, reminding me often about the excellent series « Lockwood and co » by Jonathan Stroud. A mix of thorough preparations, specialised magical weapons, courage, quick thinking, mutual assistance and sheer luck.
What I liked most in this book, which is a sensitive point for me, is characters’ development, which was great. The main characters were real persons, eluding all the stereotypes and clichés so frequently encountered in so many books, people with background stories which were actually affecting them along the story. I especially liked the heroine, Laura, a very normal person, likeable, competent and courageous but always in a credible kind of way. She may be petty sometimes, but is never unkind and tries to better a nicer person – she’s young and still maturing.
Indeed one of the main theme is about self-affirmation, especially when the entourage, even persons well-meant, trie to prevent you to do what you want with your own life. The relationship between Laura and her aunt is especially subtle in this way.
In a general manner characters, are never caricatured, being slowly nuanced. Good characters make half of a good read for me, and as the story was also very good… the book was a hit for me! I really hope that the sequel will be out soon – a sequel clearly implied by the end of the story which, if neatly wrapped up, suggests some nice future developments).
« City of Broken Magic » is a book I recommend to all readers who like stories with personality, credible characters, with no gratuitous violence, stories about friendship and family ties, stories which don’t yield to the pressure of genres’ diktats. It’s a debut novel, and it shows a little bit, that’s true. But I will take anytime a good and personal story, even greenish, rather than a perfectly controlled conventional bland one!
(I thank Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for sending me the ARC in exchange for my honest review)