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City of Lies by Sam Hawke

City of Lies by Sam Hawke
Book Name: City of Lies
Author: Sam Hawke
Publisher(s): Tor Books (US) Bantam Press (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: July 3, 2018 (US) August 23, 2018 (UK)

City of Lies was entertaining from start to finish. It was incredibly refreshing to see poison front and centre in a book.

City of Lies follows the two viewpoints of brother and sister combo, Jovan and Kalina, whose uncle is the poison taster or ‘proofer’ for the ruling chancellor. When they are both killed by an unknown toxin, Jov’s best friend Tain is elevated to the throne and it is up to Jov to not only solve the mystery of who poisoned his uncle but also protect the new ruler. Whilst all this is going on a well-organised rebellion has begun, driven by the common folk striving to return the spirits to the land and reclaim the rights that were sacrificed to make Salista, the Bright City, the metropolis it is. On top of this the army is fighting its own battles elsewhere and is seemingly unreachable leaving just a handful of fighting men and villagers to man the walls.

Jov and Kalina are both engaging characters. Kalina was the original choice to be heir to her uncle but her body never truly recovered from her first ‘practice poisoning’. Propelled by a fierce devotion to her friends and family and thrust into uncertain circumstances she must rely on an inner strength, her smarts, her skills as an orator and the fact that everyone underestimates her, to become an important player in the game. Jov is earnest in fulfilling his role as Tain’s protector, eager to honour his family and the duty they have always performed and torn by the death of his mentor and his own inability to solve the puzzle before him. They were two distinct and interesting voices and I enjoyed switching between the two of them throughout the course of the book.

There were a couple of nice pieces of worldbuilding that made this one stand apart particularly in the treatment of tradition gender paths. As the father of a two-year-old girl I enjoyed reading that in this world the females were acknowledged as the dominant contributor to genetic lines and it was males that took on the last names of their loved ones when marrying. A string of male heirs has brought down many a house and it was a nice twist on the norm that I had pretty much taken for granted.

There’s something about poison, it’s certainly an interesting option if one was seeking to dispose of an enemy. I rarely sit down wondering how I would storm a wall, or defeat a Cyclops but poisoning someone is something really anyone can do and it set my mind wandering. I think a good way to take someone out would be to taint the wheel of a car or considering the genre the reins of a horse and carriage. It would not be a 100% reliable which is a weakness but a sudden loss of consciousness or even a distortion of vision at high speed could be enough to cause an accident, which would be the true cause of death. Would poison be a consideration if someone’s head was ten feet away in a ditch? Is it healthy to be asking these sorts of questions? DO YOU SEE WHAT SAM HAWKE HAS DONE TO ME???

City of Lies is thought provoking and original with a wicked pace that makes it impossible not to get sucked into. The threat of poison is a lurking menace and gives the story an undercurrent of tension with readers unable to escape the fact that at any second a touch, a fall, a bite, even a breath could be the end of a character they’ve come to like. Overall Hawke’s debut is fantastic and whilst this is part one of a series it is truly a complete and beautiful story all on its own. You should definitely buy this book.


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