Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2019
Gold Medalist, Independent Book Publishers Awards (IPPY), Fantasy category
Official Selection, New Apple Literary, Action/Adventure category
Finalist, Kindle Book Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy category
Under the dirty streets of Ismae's greatest port city, an old nightmare waits for Sylandair and Aliara, one that is stealing Dockhaven's children, one only they can end.
When the pair escaped their owner and abuser years ago, they left him behind in a ball of blue flame, but as more children disappear near the city's desalinization plant, their suspicions turn to the predator they believed dead. Accompanied by their less-than-reliable puka scout Schmalch, they delve into the forgotten depths of the patchwork city. Their search will lead to a twisting world of corruption and experimentation, uncover horrors greater than any they imagined, and summon memories they never wanted to exhume.
A dark science fantasy action adventure, Things They Buried is the first full-length novel of Ismae, a world where science sometimes appears as magic and history as myth, where monsters make themselves and heroes are wholly unintentional.
This novel contains adult themes and violence.
Readers who appreciate dense worldbuilding will be gratified by the complexity of King and Swanson’s work. This novel boasts a dizzying number of species, a unique calendar system, guns that rely on magnets, and unusual slang (cool things are “gloss”; a drunk man is “high-seas”). The authors deploy these details naturally and leave readers wanting to know more.
King and Swanson have a real skill for describing and deploying psychology. The horrors Aliara and Syl endured are slowly revealed and the contrast between the polished, heartless personas they project and their lingering internal trauma feels genuine. The point of view shifts between chapters increase tension by delaying the revelation of threats, especially during fight scenes, though the sections narrated by minor characters occasionally distract. The plot sometimes flags as characters struggle to understand what is happening, but these slower passages add real emotion and stakes, and the conclusion nicely sets up a sequel without feeling unfinished. Horror elements and surprise twists will propel readers through this smooth, diverting fantasy.
Takeaway: The creepy threats and fierce fights in this densely imagined novel will gratify fans of dark fantasy, especially those who want real depth in between thrills.
Great for fans of Richard K. Morgan’s The Steel Remains, C.S. Friedman, Joe Abercrombie.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is a first novel??
April 14, 2019
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I think the headline is the theme of the review. This does _not_ read like an author(s)' first novel. There's none of the clunkiness, none of the struggles with character development, none of the plot loose-ends or gaps, none of the grammatical issues. In a 500+ page book there were literally only two or three times where I paused and said, "Ok wait, wha?" and backtracked half a page. I attribute those instances more to my reading too fast than to any issues with the storyline though.
To the book itself, if I told you it was a sci-fi / fantasy / horror / thriller / crime story mix, that would sound like it's way too busy and there's way too much going on, but somehow it works. The world rides beautifully between sci-fi and fantasy (think the Mos Eisley Cantina situated in a single fantasy world instead of a sci-fi galaxy). It's grubby and realistic and fantastical and thoroughly believable. You can sense a deep and varied history that's riding under the story, another rarity for a first novel, but at the same time it's not overwhelming. For instance, I love the Fire and Ice books, but the immense weight of the history that's referenced can be just that--an immense weight of baggage; I feel like I need a concordance just to keep everything straight. That same depth is here but without the overdone intricacies.
These days most of my reading is sci-fi and mil sci-fi (lots of Scalzi, Dalzelle, and Ben Bova) so this was a really nice departure into fantasy, a genre I hadn't explored too much. There was enough sci-fi to let me feel rooted, enough horror to pull me back to my youth of reading King and Koontz, and solid fantasy to draw me more into that genre. I got to the end and felt satisfied and pissed at the same time...pissed that the second book isn't out yet!
5.0 out of 5 stars
Richly developed characters and imagery
February 27, 2019
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Enslaved by a cruel and perverse master at an early age, the two inseparable main characters eventually escape but are drawn back many years later to become ensnared in the legacy of a madman.
ThingsThey Buried takes the reader on a dark and dangerous journey through a richly developed world populated by carefully crafted characters. The imagery in the book is better than most novels I have ever read, making the reader feel truly engrossed in the scenes and action.
5.0 out of 5 stars
A surplus good book,
May 25, 2019
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Way off the beaten path when it comes to my usual genre,but so very well written it kept me enthralled until the very last word. I was loathe to see it end.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Amazing characters in a completely original world
February 22, 2019
Authors Amanda King and Michael Swanson have artfully constructed an intriguingly original world for their characters to reveal. As the plot unfolds, we wind through increasingly horrifying passages of the port city of Dockhaven and the histories of Aliara and Sylandair. This Science Fantasy has some great Grimdark elements to it, though it reminds me a bit more of the work of China Mieville, only with Fritz Leiber's sense of pacing and action. The world is utterly original, but what gives the book its depth and intimacy is the way in which the main two characters grapple with -- and avoid -- their shared history of abuse. As a reader I'm a sucker for great world-building and these two have done a ton of it. It looks like we'll be seeing more from these two characters, but while we wait for the next novel, the authors have been good enough to put up several pieces of short fiction (and a bunch of concept art) on their website that fleshes out the characters' histories and that of their world. Pretty great to see this much attention to detail from a couple of indie authors. This is definitely a pair to watch.
5.0 out of 5 starsGenre defying fiction.
August 8, 2019
Format: Kindle Edition
If a reader is looking to start an adventure in a tavern filled with overused tropes, they wont find it in Things They Buried. While the novel starts to unfold in a bar, it's a convoluted story overheard. a bad feeling that has to be investigated and a long held fear that must be confronted that pulls you in. We meet characters where they are in a unique world devoid of prideful,lithe elves and knuckle dragging orcs. This is different.
This place is unique. The characters are complicated. The situations they face defy the all too typical fantasy fare.
We meet people whose pasts are not fully explained for us. The feeling that you as the reader have been dropped on set starting points of characters development arcs is refreshingly absent in this book. It's a wild ride through a very different world. It's a world I am looking forward to reading more of. The fact that this is a first novel is startling.
5 of 5 stars
Shelves: science-fiction, fantasy
This is how you write a dark fantasy world! This is how you deliver diverse and complex characters to your readers. This novel was excellent and a breath of fresh air. It is a mix of dark fantasy, sci-fi and horror. Everything had meaning and was backed up by strong dialogue between characters.
Duke Sylandair Imythedralyn and Aliara Rift escape together at a young age from their twisted owner and abuser thinking they’ve left him for dead. Eventually they start to believe this might not be the case, and so they enlist the services of the often drunk and always scavenging puka Schmalch. Together they find themselves dealing with unwanted inheritances, missing children, terrifying creatures, and the scars of their past and present.
While we primarily read from the POV of Aliara, Sylandair and Schmalch, we also get to experience the view of many different characters throughout the novel. I don’t always enjoy jumping from so many different POV’s, but it really worked for me here. Haus was one of my favourites! I always looked forward to his chapters. Overall I already miss the characters and can’t wait to explore more of the world of Ismae.
King and Swanson’s debut sci-fi/fantasy novel uses dazzling worldbuilding and a hodgepodge of characters, cultures, and fantastic species to tell a powerful, human story.
Aliara and Sylandair had gotten out, or at least they thought they had. They were once slaves, but after their master, Kluuta Orono, apparently died in a catastrophic explosion, they escaped and never looked back. Now, in 2084, they’ve built a life for themselves, trading on their wit, skill, and clout in the atoll of Dockhaven. When rumors of the survival of their former owner reach their ears, they have little choice but to investigate for themselves. Meanwhile, in the ramshackle port city, there’s a constant buzz of tragedy; in particular, children have been disappearing. After the pair’s investigation turns up evidence of the cause of these disappearances, it soon becomes clear that something far darker is afoot. In this novel, the city of Dockhaven and the world of Ismae are nearly characters themselves, and the authors introduce a variety of unfamiliar humanoid species, such as the scaly draas and the imposing karju, as part of the complex setting as well as a nuanced mix of magic and science. The worldbuilding is nearly flawless in its execution, which will entice readers to immerse themselves in the story and acclimate themselves to its strangeness as they go. The novel also strikes a chord with its characterization; Aliara and Sylandair are shown to be very much in love, but they’re unscrupulous toward most anyone else and willing to lie to, steal from, or sacrifice others when necessary. They’re extremely confident and skilled but also deeply scarred by their trauma at Orono’s hands, and they remember those experiences as they go about their daily lives. Meanwhile, Schmalch, a not-so-trustworthy thief for hire, offers an outsider’s perspective on the main pair as well as welcome comic relief. The intriguing plot makes excellent use of its primary characters, resulting in a breathtaking, harmonious read.
An empathetic, complex, and offbeat tale.
Now you can find this dark science fantasy action adventure on Kobo (https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/things-they-buried) and on Barnes and Noble for Nook (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/things-they-buried-amanda-k-king/1133049073?ean=2940161072875)