Review: The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes
Published by Orbit on 2014-10-28
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Long before he was sent to hell, the Aeon known as Khoth-Kapira was the closest thing to a living god the world had ever known. Possessed of a vast intellect, he pioneered many of the wonders that persist in the world that lingered long after he was banished. Nearly every fragment of medical, economic and technological progress that the mortal races enjoyed could be traced back to him. But with his wonders came cruelty beyond measure: industrialized slavery, horrifying experimentations and a rage that would eventually force the world to bow to him.
Now, as Khoth-Kapira stirs the world begins to shudder with disasters yet to come.The epicenter is the city of Cier'Djaal. A religious war between two unstoppable military juggernauts begins to brew. The racial fury among many peoples of the world is about to explode. Demons begin to pour from the shadows at the head of a vicious cult worshipping dark powers.
And Lenk finds himself in the middle once more, his fate and the fate of Khoth-Kapira interlinked as the demon attempts to convince him of his earnestness.
"Your world is breaking around you," He Who Makes says, "let me fix it. Let me help you. Let me out."
I’m going to come right out and say, this is not quite how I would typically write a review. My reviews are usually filled with my reaction to the book, but this one has more reaction and less detail than normal. So, you’ve been forewarned.
When I started this book I was quite taken and was expecting a very quick read because initially it was. This book has a ton of action and some fun characters that seemed to be in the middle of “something” but you really didn’t know what. I had no idea this is a follow up series to Aeon’s Gates. Perhaps that is a “Shame on me” for not doing my homework. But I’ll be honest, I kind of wished I had known that. Initially I felt like the style of this book was similar to The Black Company or Malazan where there reader is just dumped in the middle of events and expected to pick up the story as it is told. I liked those books, I enjoy being a go-with-the-flow type of reader. But then I started recognizing a couple of key phrases. I may not have read Sykes’ first series, but I was familiar with the titles. So when I saw “Tome of the Undergates” and “Aeon’s Gates” and in a way where they were referred to in relation to past events, I quickly realized I was not reading a completely fresh new series, but a continuation of the old one. Readers of the first series would not feel like they were “dumped” into the story because they would know exactly what was going on. Now, in all fairness, I did pick up on the characters and understand the group dynamic. One of the strengths of this book is the fun group dynamic. I also don’t think it took me long at all to get up to speed.
But I still can’t shake that feeling of disappointment at realizing I have now read details about the end of the first series. I am sure the experience of reading it is likely not ruined, but my desire to go back and read that series kind of is. I know if I started reading it I would probably be fine, but now that I know where they end up and what they are in for, I am just not as keen on reading it. It would not be any different than reading a prequel series that comes out after a series that is at a later timeframe, but honestly those don’t tend to appeal to me quite as much either. Oh well, nothing to be down now but move on.
As for the book, there are some fun characters, and did I mention there is serious amounts of action in this book? There are spiders that sustain the City with their silk production. Huge/towering spiders! They are revered and guarded because without them, the city would be nothing. I enjoyed that, as well as the atmosphere of the City which was rather dark. I did find the middle of the book slowed down for me and it took a while to regain my interest. Honestly, I am not sure I ever felt as engaged with the book as I did in the very beginning, which is a little disappointing. But keep in mind, I felt it started out incredibly strong. So, don’t read this and think it’s a bad book, it’s just maybe not quite as good as I had hoped. And I also want to point I that I fully understand that not knowing this was a follow up series is completely my fault! Don’t hold that against the book, I just want to make sure others know before going in to it.
When it comes down to it, this is a decent read, my opinion of it may be a bit middle of the road. For fans of the first series, I would imagine you want to continue. For new readers, you can definitely start with this one, just realize if you want to read the first series, you will have some idea of the future of the characters.