Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
City of Bones by Martha Wells
Published by Tor on September 5, 2023
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction Fantasy
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Before Martha Wells captured the hearts of MILLIONS with her Murderbot series , there was Khat, Sagai, and Elen, and a city risen out of death and decay…
The city of Charisat, a tiered monolith of the Ancients’ design, sits on the edge of the vast desert known as the Waste. Khat, a member of a humanoid race created by the Ancients to survive in the Waste, and Sagai, his human partner, are relic dealers working in the bottom tiers of society, trying to stay one step ahead of the Trade Inspectors.
When Khat is hired by the all-powerful Warders to find relics believed to be part of one of the Ancients' arcane engines, he, and his party, begin unravelling the mysteries of an age-old technology.
This they expected.
They soon find themselves as the last line of defense between the suffering masses of Charisat and a fanatical cult, bent on unleashing an evil upon the city with an undying thirst for bone.
That, they did not expect.
This updated and revised edition is the author’s preferred text.
City of Bones was released years ago but is being republished in 2023. Since I have loved all of Well’s Murderbot series I was excited to jump into a different type of story produced by her. This is the type of fantasy I’m used to reading where we are light on romance, heavy on world building with really good plotting. I was happy to see that even in a different setting than Murderbot you could still see all of the great imagination and political plotting come through. Like most epic style fantasies, it will require the reader to be a little patient up front as the world is shaped around you.
Khat is a historian and Krisman (think Dune sand people, but bioengineered to Survive in the deserts), he is also a man that lives on the edges of society making a living trading in goods that may or may not have been procured legally. The city in the middle of the desert he lives in, is a caste type system with the elites living in upper tiers with the cleanest water and as you fall in wealth or usefulness you are placed into lower and lower tiers until you are deemed useless and cast out into the desert. In a bind, he is tasked by someone cloaked from the upper tiers, a Warder, to take them out into the deserts to one of the caches from the ancients.
Elen is a warder who has possibly broken a few rules and taken artifacts out to the desert to see if they can fit them into one of the rooms of the abandoned historical sites. It sets her and Khat onto a journey where they may have uncovered a pandora’s box that could lead to the saving or destruction of the world they live in. Bringing the artifacts out of hiding sets the scene for the beginning of a political intrigue. Khat will have to find a way to steal some more artifacts, keep out of the Queen’s clutches and hopefully not get himself or any of the friends killed in the process.
This is a classic fantasy and I really enjoyed a lot of it. There was danger, intrigue, the threat of destroying the world with only a small band who could possibly save it. I liked the differences in the tier system in the city and how it worked along with the human and Khisman differences. Khat has a lot of dangers to jump through as his bones are even extremely valuable. There are some magics in the book as well employed by the warders and dangers in using them that added an interesting twist of sorts to the story. Plenty of puzzles to tease out in this epic adventure.
“What magic does is to open the mind to the world, and sometimes the world isn’t what we think it is.”
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