Political exiles are desperate to escape from the impossible city that imprisons them, in this bloody and brilliant epic fantasy
Thousands of years ago, the city of Athanor was set adrift in time and space by alchemists, called “the Curious Men”. Ever since, it has accumulated cultures, citizens and species into a vast, unmappable metropolis.
Isten and her gang of half-starved political exiles live off petty crime and gangland warfare in Athanor’s seediest alleys. Though they dream of returning home to lead a glorious revolution, Isten’s downward spiral drags them into a mire of addiction and violence. Isten must find a way to save the exiles and herself if they are ever to build a better, fairer world for the people of their distant homeland.
Sometimes, a book will capture your attention and imagination in a way that’ll remind you why you love reading in the first place. These are the books that don’t wait for you to have a spare moment, but instead demand your attention even when you’re in the middle of doing something “important”. Of course, this is a highly personal thing, and so often it’s difficult to explain exactly why this book has connected with you in the way it has. As you can imagine, this is a bit of a pain in the arse for a reviewer.
I’ll be upfront: I loved The Ingenious. The world is fabulously weird and complicated, the characters are fundamentally flawed and broken, and there’s this revolutionary streak throughout that fits my tastes so well that it’s not even funny. On top of that, we have dueling points-of-view from the perspectives of both the protagonist and the antagonist, which happens to be something I’ve been crying out for since… well, forever.
In the interest of providing a balanced and informative review, though, I should point out a few things that some potential readers might jive with.
At the start of the book, we’re thrown into the world and forced to figure out who the characters are and what’s going on with the world through context. There’s a fair bit of exposition scattered throughout the novel, but at the beginning in particular, nothing is spoon-fed to us. Some readers might love this kind of challenge — and I can already see the grins from the Malazan
horde fan base — but others might not. Likewise, the POV characters aren’t exactly likeable. One does some pretty horrible things in pursuit of her goals, and the other is straight-up the villain. The world itself is confusing at times, and those looking for a magic system with clear and rigid rules will be disappointed.
But while some readers will be completely turned off by the above paragraph, others (like me) will find a lot to like. Personally, I loved that the book explored the protagonist’s flaws, and especially her addiction. I loved that the world was crazy, and that the magic was mysterious and powerful, and that the story was often messy, chaotic, and exciting. It reminded me quite a bit of the Gutter Prayer from a conceptual standpoint, in that it’s a fast-paced story set within a city which is chock-full of Crazy.
I adored this book, and it says a lot that I came off a month-long reading slump to devour it in very few sittings. It might not be for everyone, but if the above sounds interesting to you, then you owe it to yourself to read this book.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.