- Series: The Poison Wars (Book 1)
- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books (July 3, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765396890
- ISBN-13: 978-0765396891
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #909,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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City of Lies: A Poison War Novel (The Poison Wars) Paperback – July 3, 2018
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"A tale of poisoners, deceit and treachery that will surely keep readers entranced. I don’t read many stories as twisty and unpredictable, especially in the latter chapters, as this one, and I loved what Sam Hawke did."―Terry Brooks
"If the first line doesn’t make you buy this book, you should turn in your fantasy-lover’s badge. City of Lies got me through sitting seven hours in an airport, and proves that a tale about the one who risks his life to thwart assassins can be as compelling as any assassin’s tale."―Robin Hobb
"Sibling protagonists anchor this twisty story of old grievances coming to a boil. Hawke writes with nuance about the loves, loyalties, ambitions, and resentments that bind her characters together and threaten to tear them apart."―Kate Elliott
"Absolutely loved this; the world building is brilliant, the mystery and crime elements merge seamlessly into a fantastical world of poisoners, warrior-guilds and ancient magic. But the heart of the story is the central characters, they’re written with such depth, flawed, human and likeable. City of Lies is a wonderful read and one that I'd highly recommend to all lovers of fantasy."―John Gwynne
"An enormously enjoyable read, one of the best new fantasies I’ve seen in a long time."―Adrian Tchaikovsky
“A compelling fantasy whodunit―imagine Agatha Christie channelled through Robin Hobb―and a page-turning coming-of-age tale.”―The Guardian
"A well-crafted debut with believable political intrigues, solid worldbuilding, and original characters."―Kirkus
"Colorful and exciting."―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
A black belt in jujitsu, Sam Hawke lives with her husband and children in Australia. CITY OF LIES is her first novel.
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Regardless, City of Lies was a source of great comfort to me throughout the above. It's not exactly a nice tale - it doesn't comfort you through fluffy scenes and cozy scenes - it comforts you through being so damn well written and engaging that it warms your soul and revitalises you. If you're a fan of V. E. Schwab or Robin Hobb's work go get this book right this second.
I'm always a sucker for character-driven books, and that's what we have right here. The characters are all varied and interesting, but the plot, too, drives you from scene to scene, and it's pretty much a murder mystery set in a fantasy world, with the characters trying desperately to find out why their uncles died, and why everyone is trying to kill them. Specially who and why.
The world building is exquisite. There is a sense of history and the turning of religion to science and the heartache this can bring to people. A city is literally torn apart and you get such a sense of the life the city once had. And really, what drives this narrative is the women. The ones who were brave enough to risk their lives to come to the Chancellor and explain. The ignored sister who leaves the safety to take a dangerous trek that has already claimed many lives. And my favourite - the scornful, intelligent, spiritual young woman who loves her mother and brother, and really isn't afraid to talk bluntly to the chancellor and his advisors.
The other main characters are Tain (the chancellor) and his proofer, Jovan, who has been raised to know all poisons by taste, touch, smell. It's the job his uncle had before him, and it's what has taken both the previous chancellor and Jovan's uncle right at the start of the book, and their murders that they're hurrying to solve. Jovan's job should have actually been that of his older sister - Kalina - however thanks to her chronic condition she simply wasn't strong enough for the job. She makes herself useful in other ways, but the fact Jovan spends every waking moment trying to keep Tain alive, and having it distracted for thinking he also has to be the carer of his sister - who is stronger than he realises - is another driving factor of the book. And as someone with chronic illnesses I couldn't adore Kalina more, and what she achieves.
I'm writing this review at 75% because I hear that the ending is going to ruin me and want to grab Hawke's leg, and refuse to let go, allowing myself to be dragged around as I wail and beg to know what happens next. I figured I should write this now while I can still feign coherently.
This book is excellent in its representation of other cultures, same sex relationships, living with chronic disease, living with compulsions, and throughout we see the characters learning from their mistakes and prejudices, accepting same sex couples as literally nothing to remark upon, and supporting and working with people with chronic illnesses or compulsions as if they're something to work alongside of. One has the compulsion to do everything evenly, and when they're in a state their closest friends simply ensure they rub both shoulders evenly, as to help calm them rather than set them off even more. It's really, really lovely to see.
City of Lies is the debut start to what promises to be an excellent series, by Australian Sam Hawke. Go buy this book! I'm going to go and read the final 25% and cry.
This book is full of tightly-woven intrigue that's just right to keep you guessing, but not for so long that you forget it. Rich descriptions bring this different land into full view without slowing the pace.
That this is a debut novel is simply amazing. Sam Hawke writes with complete control and command, sending the reader flawlessly down the right path.
This is the first author I've read in this genre that interests me as much as the incomparable Robin Hobb. I'm kind of sad that I discovered her at the beginning of her career; she doesn't have a body of work to read while waiting for her next new book. The herb/potion/poison opening to each chapter is a touch of genius that adds a topping to this delicious read.
Seriously - fabulous in every way. I'm desperately waiting for the sequel. I need to know what happens next!
It was a really engaging story. I loved the world and social structures embedded in the story. Much of the book takes place in one city of one country, so there is a lot more to discover about the world as the series develops.
The characters were really strong and well developed throughout the book. Lots of palace intrigue (as you’d expect from a book about poisoning). Told through the eyes of a brother and sister, it was really powerful.
Can’t wait for Book #2!!!
First off, this book is a fantasy mystery/suspense novel, and a damn good one. The multitude of twists and turns in the plot are artfully unveiled over the course of the book through the intimate perspective of its two narrators. A brother and sister, they tell the story in alternating first person, which I love. I run into so few multi-character first person POV novels, but I don't think I've ever found one I didn't like, and that's saying something, because I tend to dislike single-character POV stories.
Small gripe: as a seasoned fantasy reader, I was surprised to experience something I rarely struggle with. I kept getting a little confused at times by all the fantasy character names, not because they were poorly conceived, but because of the heavy mystery element necessitating I keep track of them closer than I'd normally need to. There was so much going on to follow at any given time, I kept having to refresh my memory on who was who to keep from becoming confused by the idea of an incorrect character in my mind being responsible for a twist that wasn't there. That said, it was my failing, not the book's, so I'm not letting it detract from the score. Just note you might want to make a couple "who's who" notes along the way if you don't feel utterly confident your memory is better than mine.
I empathized with both characters immensely. They were both blessedly competent and yet also satisfyingly flawed. The female lead, Kalina, has a fragile constitution, due I think to lingering damage from a poisoning in her youth, and consequently has a lot to prove, both to herself and to others. This manifests in the form of vital bravery at times, and impaired, reckless judgement at others, keeping her both imperfect and vitally relevant. The male lead, Jovan, struggles with obsessive compulsive personality traits, and is basically me, for better or often worse, so I empathized with him on a very real level throughout. Both are consistently wicked smart, which is refreshing to say the least.
Another small gripe on that point: There was only a single instance I felt Jovan failed, in a way that was beneath his intelligence, to make a strategic decision that dangled in front of him, for purposes of moving the plot along. Late in the book an event occurs that potentially implicates both a red herring and a primary antagonist. Jovan confronts the red herring and through the course of the scene figures out that the true culprit was the real antagonist, but instead of publicly locking up the red herring for the crime to mask his knowledge of the truth and cause the true culprit to become complacent, he lets the red herring go free, thus tipping off the culprit that the jig is up. I'd like to stress, however, that this didn't really ruin the story at all for me. If it had gone otherwise, the book might have had to be twice as long, and certainly a lot less satisfyingly concluded. Many mysteries I'd still consider good books commit this sin far worse and far more times than this one, and if anything the fact that it only happened one time in this 560-page novel is a huge point in favor of its protagonists.
The concept is fascinating as well. The story opens early on with an assassination and an uprising, but in a genre that tends to focus on the perspective of the uprising, this book throws us a curve ball by following the ignorant despots who were responsible for that uprising through the unknowing abuse of their people and, surprisingly, the book managed to make me sympathize with them throughout. It's a story that feels fresh to read in a way that definitely will not disappoint.
It's not terribly dark, and will likely leave grimdark fans wishing for a few more hats fashioned from human scalps, or incestuous relationships, but alas, you can't please everyone. Violence is utilized only when needed, and the Disney sex fades to black before any uglies can bump together.
I was impressed by the level of suspense I felt toward the end, once I more or less knew the depth and breadth of the conspiracy. A deep sense of foreboding fell over me and stayed there to the end, one on par with Mary Higgens Clark at her best. The danger was ever-present, and no one felt safe, and it takes a level of skill and craft to pull that off this well.
It says it's book 1, but honestly it reads entirely like a standalone novel, thoroughly wrapping up its plot. I'm not sure how where the series will go from here, but I'm certainly intrigued, and will be excited to snap up the next book when it comes along.