Monday, March 29, 2010

"City of Night" by Michelle West

City of Night is the second novel written by Michelle West in The House War series, which is shaping up to be a four book series. I say shaping up, as West's Sun Sword series was originally planned as a duology but ended up taking six publications to complete. Once again, I am reading an author for the first time, and very quickly became trapped by the world she has created around her Essalieyan Empire.

As described on the inner front jacket, West opened our eyes to this fantasy universe in 1995 with her duology Sacred Hunt. From what I can gather, The House War series is the story behind one of the main characters in The Sun Sword series, Jewel Markess.

In City of Night, Jewel (or Jay) to her friends is the head of a 'Den' of 10 youths in the Essalieyan's capital city Averalaan. This den, which struggles within the holdings of Averalaan-- and the hidden city below its streets--to eek out a survival is thrust into the house wars of the ruling powers of Essalieyan.

West does an artful job of building the path between the urchins of Jay's den to their eventual introduction into the upper echelons of Averalaan. As this is accomplished, the universe she has created is revealed in extremely rich detail. This is not only accomplished in the physical realm, but also in the exquisite detail she puts into developing her characters and the complex social structure of the societies they interact with.

As I began to read this novel, I did not have the benefit of being previously introduced to the various characters and beings of the Essalieyan realm. For me, the story began slowly as I tried to understand who the characters were and how they fit into the overall scheme of things. While doing this though, I came to appreciate the Tolkeinesque detail that was being poured into this book. I enjoyed learning about Averalaan, and exploring the niceties and defining behaviours of the various classes making up this city. By the end though, I was reading at a fevered pitch and could not wait to see where Jewel and the survivors of her Den would end up. After all, children are disppearing from the holdings of Averalaan, and Mages of the Order of Knowledge are all entangled in the battle with a nearly unstoppable foe.

West has captured my interest with her writing with the same sort of snare that J.R.R. Tolkein and Robert Jordan and will perhaps be one of the next Greats of fantasy fiction!
Eager to read? Penguin Canada is offering one lucky Canadian Northern Mama reader a copy of City of Night by Michelle West!
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Giveaway open to Canadian residents only {sorry publisher's request}. Giveaway closes April 14th, 2010, midnight EST. Read Giveaway Rules for details.

TOM

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