Sickness runs rampant in Pazard'zhik, capital city of Trakya, and healers are powerless to stop it.
Grendel has done his job for Marcus Marchenkov, perhaps too well. He finds himself alone on the road east with Aleksandra Madasgorski-Krakova, surrounded by dangerous strangers who won't think twice about killing her or him. He must walk a precarious path where a single wrong move could be his last.
With Marko Madasgorski in control of the caravan, Jasper Thredd can no longer hide behind his guise as a simple cook. Fearing he, too, has contracted the deadly illness, Jasper seeks help from Trakya's White Circle. However, enemies appear at every turn, and Jasper soon finds himself hunted through the streets of Pazard'zhik. Desperate, he seeks the aid of his few remaining friends in the city, putting into motion a plan of last resort — a plan that could get them all killed.
It’s a race against time as Grendel, Jasper, Xandor, and Chert chase the poison-laden caravan all the way to the White River and Bregu Kraagor, a crafty orc chieftain who controls the city of Chernigov. Hope — as fleeting as it is — comes in the form of a small band of relic hunters from Michurinsk, but they, too, are trapped within the territory of the orc horde.
Can the team of investigators save them and find the cure?
Every so often a sequel comes along that is as good as the original. It's not often, but it does happen. I mean, The Empire Strikes Back was every bit as good as Star Wars, right? (Hey you, stop smirking. You know I'm right. ESB was the best Star Wars movie.) Now, I will grant you that it doesn't always happen that way. But sometimes, every great once in awhile, a blue moon appears and brings with it a worthy sequel. I don't know if it specifically takes an act of divine intervention, or if it just feels like it does. I mention this for a very specific reason:
Fans of Jimbo's will remember when I reviewed Son of Cayn awhile back and I was ecstatic about it. Well, I'm happy to say that Stormy McDonald, Alan Isom and Jason McDonald have done it again. Their latest is City of Cayn and it's pretty amazeballs. I just finished it on Wednesday and I already can't wait for the next one. Of course, this one just came out today and, by my own personal code of ethics, I'm required to wait at least a week before bugging them. Get ready guys. I'll find a way! Something annoying your way comes. I'm just not sure what it is yet. Before all and sundry I make this vow: I will pester you for the next one. And it's very obviously coming because you set it up beautifully.
Something we didn't see enough of in the first book was magic, but it abounds this time around. Mages in the City of Cayn universe are apparently pretty badass. At one point a character who shall remain nameless pulls off a massive illusion that had me sitting there in awe. I've seen very few works where a single mage could have pulled something that big off. At another point that same character is called out for not being an archmage. Bro, if this is what a neophyte looks like, I don't wanna have to face the master. That was some straight up ass-kickery. He does other really impressive stuff too, but that was what got me the most.
I have to say, I'd love to see this one turned into a movie too. It would be a special effects extravaganza. I'm thinking of two specific scenes that would light up a screen and make me want to dance. I seriously need to see what a Hollywood pyrotechnics crew could do with some of this. It sounds soooooo impressive. I think it could live up to the way I pictured it.
Oh, and I suppose, since I'm talking about a book, I should mention the plot. I don't do spoilers so I can't say much, but damn. This is epic fantasy the way you're supposed to do epic fantasy. Good guys, bad guys and the whole world (well... maybe) in the balance and only our plucky group of heroes can save the whole world from dying... We hope. They have to figure out how first though and right now, it's not looking too good. We're all sweating and rooting for them. And, at the end of the day, that's what I love about the genre. This isn't a story about variable morals and "everything is gray." This is "someone is trying to kill all of us and we have to stop them."
I can't help sitting back and remembering a scene from The Godfather III though. (Yes, I liked it.) At one point, Michael Corleone (played masterfully by Al Pacino) sits back and says "Our true enemy has not yet revealed himself." There is a mastermind behind what's going on. I know it. I have a feeling I know at least one being that he/she/it is working with. I'm just not sure who they are. I'm sure time, and the next book, will tell, but I'm straining to figure this out. If it's the obvious choice it'll be cool. If it's someone new to the stage it'll be cooler. I guess I'll just have to wait to find out which it is.
As mentioned before, City of Cayn is a sequel and I highly recommend reading Son of Cayn first. There is a lot going on in this book and a look back at where it started is necessary to knowing who all of these people are and how they relate to each other. It gets awfully complicated, especially for a cast this small. The relations between the characters, and their complications, are a big part of what makes City of Cayn fun, so you really do need to know your stuff.
Of course, there are new characters added too. The authors decided to spice this one up with some additions that just work. One of my favorite characters in the book was not featured in the first book and she's a total badass. She goes through a lot and I feel bad for her at times, but if she wanted an easy life she shouldn't have been in a novel.
As a matter of fact, that's something that really works in City of Cayn. The benefits of success are sky high. The penalty for failing is unthinkable. The route to victory is not a straight one. It's quite frankly a mess. There is no super-successful, gets it right every time person here. The one person I thought might turn into that guy is worse off than almost anyone else. This is a highly detailed, well planned-out story and the authors have pulled it off wonderfully.
Really my only problem with the book is that the sequel isn't here yet. I'm dying to find out how all of this ends. I want to find out if the bad guy is who I think he is. I want to see if somebody slaps that bitch. (She deserves it.) I want to know if the world gets saved. I want to know... when the next book is coming. But trust me, I won't bother the authors for at least a week.
Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Bars of Soap