Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jay Lake Pre-Mortem Read-a-thon, Review the Fifth

TRIAL OF FLOWERS (The City Imperishable #1)
Night Shade Books
$14.95 trade paper, available now

Reviewed by Richard, 4.25* of five

The Publisher Says: The City Imperishable's secret master and heir to the long-vacant throne has vanished from a locked room, as politics have turned deadly in a bid to revive the city's long-vanished empire.

The city's dwarfs, stunted from spending their childhoods in confining boxes, are restive. Bijaz the Dwarf, leader of the Sewn faction among the dwarfs, fights their persecution. Jason the Factor, friend and apprentice to the missing master, works to maintain stability in the absence of a guiding hand. Imago of Lockwood struggles to revive the office of Lord Mayor in a bid to turn the City Imperishable away from the path of destruction.

These three must contend with one another as they race to resolve the threats to the city.

My Review: What a trip. The back cover copy calls it an "urban fantasy," which to my mind doesn't conjure images of Perdido Street Station (which this book reminds me of) so much as it does Dead Until Dark et. seq. But the key factor here is to be found in the word "fantasy."

I read a fantasy novel.

There, I said it.

I not only read it, I enjoyed it. BUT DON'T FOR GAWD'S SAKE TELL ANYONE. I will swear an oath that you're lying and that you must be the one who hacked my account and wrote a glowing heap of praise for a book with dwarves, an ancient city declining under an empty throne, a reluctant hero...well, you see my predicament. I can't admit out loud that I liked this kind of guff. "The city is," runs the motto Lake gives the City Imperishable. Yeeesh, really? Portentous much?

But seriously, who wouldn't like a book with this in it:
There was nothing left of himself that he wanted, save the vague glimmer of peace that he found somewhere inside the violet smoke. Finally he understood the place to which his wife had long since retreated.
Sometimes, when the snow was not so deep and he'd managed a little soup or coffee, {he} thought about making his way {home} and apologizing to his wife. He wasn't sure she'd understand him though--the crap dust had begun to rot his teeth, getting in all too quickly through the breaks, and his tongue was always dry as leather and twice too big.
The abjection of a powerful character, the absolute fall, the hitting bottom with a resounding *crunch* is unsettlingly well-limned.

And some regulars among you might recall my utterances on the subject of majgicqk. They have been uniformly derisory and occasionally cachinnatory. But here again Lake subverts and alters my wall of defense against balderdash:
"Everything carries the seeds of its own opposition, in equal measure. Have you ever toppled a wall? ... You must press as much as it takes to move the stones. They react as they are pushed. What people care to call magic works the same way. No one calls lightning from the summer sky without burning a hole in something, somewhere."
When you put it that way....

The City Imperishable is, like all places and cultures, built on a bargain. The bargain has costs and it has benefits. Those who pay the costs aren't always the ones who reap the benefits. Each main character, Bijaz the dwarf, Imago the Lord Mayor, and Jason the fector, pays dearly for the City Imperishable to derive the final benefit: Remaining alive. But each of these men, in their turn, finds a greater benefit in his sacrifice. They become whole in their brokenness, and anneal the metal of their character, and in the testing of their different mettles, bring life raging anew through the City Imperishable.

The city is.

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1 comment:

  1. Good review. Yet another author whose books I must now read. Thanks.