cover image City of Lies

City of Lies

Sam Hawke. Tor, $14.99 trade paper (560p) ISBN 978-0-7653-9689-1

Australian author Hawke launches her Poison War epic fantasy series with this exhaustive and imaginative exposé of capitalistic corruption. Wealthy, cultured Silasta, the Bright City, is threatened from without and within. It’s under siege by the downtrodden and vengeance-bent workers called earthers, whose exploited labors have sustained it, while it rots within from one betrayal after another among its privileged families and members of the guilds. Jovan is an apprentice secret proofer, someone who tests for toxins (often being poisoned himself in the process) and develops their antidotes. He’s devoted to protecting Tain, Silasta’s politically naive new chancellor, from the poisoner who killed Jovan and Tain’s uncles. Jovan’s sister, Kalina, too physically frail to proof, has espionage skills that prove crucial to the city’s survival. Hawke’s often violent and always detail-oriented narrative dwells heavily on episodes of the protracted siege as the springboard for political commentary, chiefly through Tain’s experiences of growing into maturity as a humane man and pragmatic ruler. This colorful and exciting tale occasionally stretches the limits of belief, but fantasy fans will still enjoy it and eagerly anticipate its coming sequel. (July)