This happens to be a fairly old book and I’m not known to read older books much, feeling much more comfortable with the writing styles of recent releases. However, I stumbled upon the reviews for this book when I was browsing and I was fascinated. And I’m actually surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
As soon as I got into the book a bit, the first thing that came to mind was how similar the premise felt to City of Stairs – that’s one of my all time favorites, so my interest increased exponentially and I wasn’t disappointed. The author drops us smack dab into the middle of the story, and we get to know the world and it’s magic system called Craft as we go on. I’m not always a fan of that kind of writing style, but it somehow worked here and I didn’t feel lost, so hats off to the author’s skills. The whole idea is also very imaginative, a world which has gods and deities who provide sustenance so that their cities can run, Craftsmen and women who use starlight and earth to wield their magic and work for Craft firms (similar to law firms) to solve when issues rise across kingdoms. I thought the use of business contracts as the way how the exchange between gods and other entities works was ingenious. As this story is essentially a murder mystery/ legal thriller, I really enjoyed the way the characters unraveled the mystery and built their case. While I really loved the different uses of Craft throughout the story, I thought the scene at the Court of Craft was phenomenal and has left an impression on my mind that I won’t soon forget. When the confrontations between different Craft users occur, I can’t call them action sequences but more like battle of wills and they were stunning to read about. While some part of the murder mystery was fairly easy to guess, it was very interesting to read other twists as well as find out the various motivations. And I still can’t get over the brilliant final chapter and the epilogue – they were truly epic.
Tara is our main protagonist, a new associate working on her first case and is very much invested in solving it perfectly so that she can make her job permanent. She is strong willed, tenacious, confident and good at thinking outside the box when things aren’t going her way. She is also open minded and willing to look at all the evidence as well as the bigger picture before making judgments, despite strong evidence pointing her in a particular direction. Abelard on the other hand wants to believe in god and his faith, is feeling a bit shaken due to the god’s death and just wants everything to return to normal. This leads to some very interesting discussions between them about faith and justice, idealism vs practicality, an engineer’s view of the world vs that of a Craftswoman. They don’t always understand each other’s perspective, but trust enough to work together towards their common goal. Elayne is the mentor figure to Tara and while we only get a little of her POV, her mind works in brilliant ways and it was masterful the way she makes sure everything happens the way she wants it to. There are other side characters we meet along the way and we are intrigued initially because we don’t know why we need to follow along with them, but the author ties up everybody’s storyline amazingly well towards the end and we quickly realize how each of them had an important role to play. I ended up loving every one of them and it’s nice to see the small bonds that developed between each of them too.
Finally, I have to say that this is one of the most unique fantasy worlds I’ve read in a while. If you are a fan of the Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett, or love your fantasy worlds to have steampunk elements while also featuring gods and magic and discussing economics and trade etc, then this book is perfect for you. The magic system can be a tad bit too convenient, but it didn’t in anyway hamper my enjoyment of the story. It also works well as a standalone, so you will be very satisfied. There seem to be quite a few books in this series, but I’m not in a hurry – I might just decide to pick up the sequel the next time I’m confused about what to read.