I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me…
Silasta is a nation known for its democracy, arts, and peace. Jovan and Kalina are a brother and sister duo whose family has a quiet history of not only advising the Chancellor of Silasta, but also proofing their foods to protect them from poison. When the Chancellor unexpectedly dies alongside Jovan’s uncle, Jovan and his sister work to uncover the treachery that threatens their world while simultaneously dealing with a rebel army marching on the city.
While there are several things to enjoy about City of Lies, in the end it was just okay.
Probably the most intriguing thing about this book was its family dynamics.
There was virtually no mention of marriage at all in the book. Women can basically take as a romantic partner anyone they want to. Any children that are produced from that are raised by the mother and their brother rather than the father. The uncle of the child(ren) is called their Tashi (apologies if I spelled that wrong, I read this via audio book) and it is heavily implied that if a child is raised without a Tashi, they are raised “without honor.” With the emphasis on so many fantasy books being based on primogeniture, it was interested to see that shaken up in this kind of sideways direction.
The characters themselves, Jovan, Kalina, and Tain (the Chancellor’s Heir), were, again, okay. They were well developed characters that were interesting to read about. However, nothing really jumped off the page about them. While they all had some character growth they experienced, they all were also the same noble, mostly intelligent fantasy MCs that have been written everywhere else.
The mystery itself of who killed the Chancellor was intriguing but it fell kind of flat at the end.
The two major questions in the mystery are who did the poisoning and what was the actual poison. With the arrival of a rebel army just days after the Chancellor’s death, it seemed pretty obvious that whoever did it intended to throw the city into chaos before being attacked. While there were some answers by the end of the book, none of them really felt all that satisfactory. And others, like what poison was actually used, was left completely unanswered. An antidote was found, sure, but after all the details of what poison does what and what are its proofing cues, it felt like there should have been a definitive “this was the poison!” moment.
And the solution to the puzzle, the person behind all the crimes. It was…okay. Their motives made sense and all but how they orchestrated everything, what with inciting a rebellion at just the right time, left something to be desired.
When a main plot revolves around a mystery, the book can revolve around the revelations regarding that mystery to be sufficiently intriguing. It has to stick the landing. Unfortunately, City of Lies just did not do that.
I’ve said it before but the same exact story that’s been told over and over again never gets too tired to be retold if you have characters that are easy to engage with and get lost in. That, along with the ending, colors my entire opinion of City of Lies. While I never lost interest in reading about these characters, they kind of blend in with 75% of every other fantasy character out there and just didn’t leave any kind of impression on me.
It seems a little strange to me that I got so hung up on that one detail in this world but I actually want to explore more implications of this family dynamic of the emphasized importance of uncles. That actually intrigued me more than anything else in this book. While I enjoyed the story enough, I think that hoping for more about this will keep me reading the next book in the series when it comes out.