January 10, 2010

Book Review: The Drowning City by Amanda Downum

Another book review by ~S

Do you ever feel like an author has written their books out of order? I'm feeling that way about Amanda Downum's The Drowning City. I wanted a book with a well developed magical premise, a decadent landscape, and a strong female lead. Unfortunately, this book simply didn't deliver.

The magic is clearly stone based but it is unclear why some people have access to that and some don't or why certain stones work in certain ways. Also, the magical creatures are almost completely unexplored. Nakh are evil water spirits.  Oka-a-a-a-y, where did they come from? Were they always a problem or did the building of Symir in the delta they called home cause the problem? Why mention them if it could have been any generic evil spirit?

The places -from countries to neighborhood- were confusing and didn't have enough personality to set them apart. For example, Jadewater was different from Merrowgate or the Floating Garden how exactly?  Selfali versus Sivahra? They are supposed to be different but really felt very similar. Mostly, I have to say why not political factions in the same country?

As for the characters, I liked them enough to finish the book but had some issues with Isyllt. She acted in ways which were deeply inconsistent with the little I figured had to be true about her. Why would Kiril send her to do this job unless she was a trained and competent political agent? After reading this book, I'm thinking it may be because she is extremely lucky. She lucked her way into a revolution. She also slept with a possible agent of the enemy because he seemed intriguing (apparently one drunken pity party was enough to resolve Isyllt's feelings for Kiril??), and she learned very little about the people she was supposed to be manipulating to her advantage. Lucky she wasn't killed . . . probably. Trained and competent . . . not so much.

Okay, so I wasn't a huge fan of the book but I am asking for book two and first no less? Well, this may be based on my hopeful reading of the blurb for book two, The Bone Palace, at the end of The Drowning City. The Bone Palace appears to take Isyllt home and lets her do her thing on home soil. This should give the reader (and more importantly ME) a better understanding of what drives Isyllt, why we should side with Kiril rather than anyone else, and possibly provide a stronger background to explain more about the way magic works. If so, I have a feeling I will like Isyllt more and care more about the overall state of her world.

In general, I guess I support saving the overthrow of government until we understand why we would want to . . . but then, I'm just silly that way.

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