Good read for any crime fan. It's a futuristic take on the classic PI. Althoug the whole murder happens, police can't do much about it because of political red tape has been used before the storyline kept me captivated throughout. I especially liked the way the author lays out the city in different levels that have been built over the decades, it gives the novel a sci-fi feel allwhile staying true to the classic detective story. Recommended for anyone who likes crime novels.
The book is about a city more than anything. It’s about a city in three levels. It was originally just one level, but then it grew, beyond its borders and limits, and now there’s the Plateau, a city hanging in air over the world, where there is sunlight and air and where people are doing well. Where the richer people live. There is the Surface level, which is obviously on the surface of the world, a bit more working class, where crime is more prevalent, although people are doing okay, but need some help. Especially since they have the Hive underneath. The Hive is a sort of lawless place of gangs, violence, weapons and drugs. It’s basically run by three gang leaders who live in a Mexican Standoff that can always crack. The city was built this way with the help of alchemists, the alchemists are now shoved into the Hive, disliked, and the Plateau and the Surface try to ignore them. Enter Ian Allant, a political genius, an activist, and a man who tries to help the Alchemists, get them back their previous standing, and who tries to help the Hive. When Allant is murdered a P.I., Theo Donovan, is asked to help the Plateau Police to find his killer, because they know the Surface or Hive must be involved. There’s also this side story going on which I’ll get back to.
It’s technically a thriller/crime novel, but it is sprinkled with these sci-fi/fantasy elements, which I really liked, because I am not a huge thriller fan. I tend to find crime books kind of boring, therefore I really liked that this one wasn’t straight up crime. I am however very easy when it comes to fantasy/sci-fi.
I feel like the author had a very clear grasp of his world and his characters. He knew them well and what he was doing. His world building is great, and I got a real feel for how different the different levels of the city were. He also seems to have a very serious grasp of his characters. The story is told from several perspectives, Theo’s, his ex-wife’s, Allant’s brothers, and a mysterious Aries. They all have very distinct and different voices, which can be hard to do, so that was really impressive.
It very much leans on the crime/thriller genre, but it’s also very strongly in the urban fantasy genre and the author seems very comfortable with both genres. There isn’t that much magic. The alchemy seems more like science than magic, which I suppose it is in some ways.
I feel like Theo was the most, and best, developed character, which makes sense, he is in many ways the main character. I think Martin was interesting in many ways, he’s got a lot of interesting characteristics, he’s struggling with his brother’s death, and his guilt over how he feels about it. He felt a little… too naïve and sheltered, it bugged me a little, but it was true to his character. He is also trying to find out what happened to his brother, and because the Allant family is incredibly wealthy he hasn’t had to go outside, and he’s never been down to the Surface, so he’s really breaking out of his comfort zone.
I liked Janine, she’s Theo’s ex, and used to be a cop. A lot of her purpose is sort of tied up to Theo. It’s natural, they were married, and they’re still friends, and she was sort of brought into it by Theo, so it’s natural. She gets very intense and very dragged into the case, and I liked her. She’s tough and badass, and I liked her.
There’s a lot of backstory that isn’t revealed. And a lot of the backstory is teased out over time. It’s not dropped on you out of nowhere, there’s no info dumping really, it’s teased out over time when it’s needed, and some of it is only hinted at and not actually revealed. Theo doesn’t really have the traditional detective flaw, but there is clearly something awful in his past, which is continually hinted to.
As mentioned there is a sort of side story. There is a mysterious alchemist named Aries who is sending letters to a person named Mars. Aries is going with a group of alchemists and soldiers below the Hive to a place called Foundation where they’re trying to set up a sort of haven for people who live in the Hive. In the beginning I struggled to see what Mars and Aries had to do with anything, but it eventually becomes clear that there’s this huge plot and conspiracy that Mars, Aries, Allant and Theo are part of.
There is a lot happening. I sometimes felt a little confused, but mostly I kept up with everything that was happening. It was very clear and all that. There’s that eloquence I’m known for. Even though a lot is going on I never really felt left behind.
I have some… not really criticisms, but things that could have been done better. It’s self-published, and while it’s impressively done I think it would have done well with an editor sort of tightening it and going through it before it was published. I think it was good, but I think that some places I think it needed an editor asking questions and tightening it up a bit. I also feel like it was finished very quickly. It was suddenly just… done. I think it would have been better if some of the many threads had been wrapped up sooner, or at least started sooner. In the last two chapters A LOT happened in a very short time. And it felt a bit rushed. Although I think an editor would have organized that as well.
An important “character” in this book is the City. And I thought that was great. I like when geographical aspects have a big role in the story. The people in the different levels are very different and they feel like they belong there and are true to the places they live in.
I really liked it. I thought it was interesting. I thought the author had a good grasp of his characters and the world he’s made. I thought the story was interesting, and good, and I think he has incredible potential as an author. The City is its own character, which I like. Yes, good job.
I think it prudent to mention in full disclosure, that I do in fact know the author. This however does not mean i have any intentions of sparing his feelings ;)
So.. That said, I think the book is good, but not great.
It has a lot of captivating characters, and even a lot of the minor characters shine despite hardly being in the book at all. The world/city is an amazingly fun and imaginative place to explore and the author does a very good job of describing the enviroments that the characters move through. I'm a softy for a well-constructed fictional world, and this one definitly does not disappoint!
The main place I dock points is the base structure, the whole private investegator crime formula is a well-worn one, and while it is a breath of fresh air to get it in a fantasy setting - at its base that is what it boils down to.
In spite of this, it's actually a very entertaining read - the characterization is excellent, and the world is fascinating. The structure might be familiar, but thanks to its setting, there's still surprises in store.
I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, science-fiction or crime novels.