Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
City of Soldiers Paperback – June 21, 2013
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Dear Sam Burke,
If I ever saw a blurb which does not do justice to the book, while technically describing correct information, this blurb is IT. This blurb makes the book look like an erotic romance, which in my opinion it is really not. In fact I do not think this is a romance at all, even though it certainly shows complex relationships among the men named in the blurb. I think this is first and foremost a book about the awful ways our society treats our veterans, and how these people attempt to deal with the horrors they have to live in when they come back from the wars society sent them to fight. I want to warn readers not to expect an angst fest. All the main characters have really bad war injuries to deal with – physical and psychological, but the book deals with their pain very matter of fact way.
More importantly, while their pain is not minimized at all, I really loved that these guys still try to help those around them who may be in worse circumstances than they are.
“Brackett did not reply. On the TV, astronauts died one by one and the survivors tried to save the planet. You couldn’t save everyone. Roman knew that from the war. But you did your best to save the ones you loved and had vowed to protect or you died trying.”
These men are not perfect, they certainly have flaws and multiple flaws at that, but still the first word that comes to mind when I think about Roman, Kristian, Sean and several others is “admiration”. It is really easy to admire these guys and want them to get better and also to hope that institutions and society in general will get some clues about how much our veterans deserve better treatment in all areas of life.
This story is also a mystery. The question of who is killing homeless veterans drives the plot in a several significant ways and moves the relationships forward. I both liked and disliked the resolution of the mystery. I liked it because I could understand the motives of the killer (as much as you can understand the motives of the deranged person). However, I thought that the clues for the killer’s identity were too obvious. When the circle of suspects was narrowed down to the people main characters know and interact with, the killer was showing too much casual cruelty. To me it was very clear who the killer was, and I hope it won’t be too obvious for other readers. I did not think that the story suffered much because of it, it still worked for me as suspense, but I had to note that I did not have to do much guessing, if any.
I thought that the existing relationships between the main characters and those that were forming right in front of reader’s eyes were the very best part of this story. I said it is not a romance IMO, but there was certainly a lot of love between main guys, as well as friendship, support, and all the things I love reading about.
I said that the blurb supplied technically correct information, but I am really not sure if Roman getting “caught up” between two dominating men would be completely technically correct. Yes, both Kristian and Michael (the cop referenced in the blurb) love him. This however seemed to be something all three of them had known for a while and they seemed to be content with the status quo. Sean is the one who unintentionally destroyed the status quo by being attracted to Roman and to other people. The bonds that tie all of these men together are being tested and new bonds are being formed, but there are no neat answers – just as life rarely supplies you with answers.
As blurb states Roman is asexual. This is the first time I’ve read an m/m book with the asexual character being front and center, perhaps even the most important character in the book. This certainly adds another layer of complexity when everybody involved is trying to figure out where they stand. Here is how Roman is trying to explain who he is to Sean.
“I like guys,” he told Sean. “Guys who work hard, who are honest with you, who make the world a better place just by being in it. All my best friends are guys. The best thing in the world would be someone I could live with every day, go to sleep every night, someone who’d cuddle up on the sofa and watch dumb movies. Someone who’s glad to see me. But I don’t want the big thing, the thing everyone else wants. The deal breaker.”
Sean look confused. “What deal breaker?”
“You tell me,” Roman said. “What do you want from the guy you sleep with?”
‘I’d want…I don’t know. Love?”
“Love is not a deal breaker. Think lower.”
“You don’t want…” Sean’s gaze went to Roman’s crotch. “Sex?”
“Sean’s expression was half disbelief, half humor. “You’re joking.”
“Not joking,” Roman said. “Never wanted it. Not my thing. It’s called asexual.”
“You’ve never had sex,” Sean said tentatively, as if trying the idea on for size.
“I didn’t say that. I said I don’t want it. Now ask me other things: do I jerk off, do I have fantasies, did I ask a doctor, is it the brain injury, is it my medicine? Sometimes, sometimes, yes, no, no.”
“I lost track after jerk off.” Sean scratched the side of his head. “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to have sex. It’s just… built in, right?”
Roman said, “Not into me, I’m asexual.”
“But that’s not …common,” Sean said.
“I’m glad you didn’t say normal,” Roman replied.”
Roman is just such an appealing character. It would have been so easy for the author to crank the angst level up because of his brain injury alone, but he deals with cards life gave him and tries to make the best of it. He knows it will not be easy for him to find a relationship he wants, but he keeps hoping and when he meets a person he knows he might fall in love with, he deals the cards he has been given, even if he has to compromise to make those he loves happy and try to get some happiness for himself too.
As I said before, this book really does not supply neat answers in the relationship department. I thought this book ended very satisfactorily, but there is absolutely no romantic resolution for anybody. But I felt that the deep love these men have for each other will help them figure it out no matter what.
“I get you every Friday night,” Brackett said. Everything else we’ll improvise”.
No, I am not telling you whom he is saying these words to and what if anything this means.
There is a magical element in the book, but the book is not a fantasy. I thought the magical element was used very effectively to bring a certain point home about helping these guys heal their many hurts, I really liked that using it had very clear side effects and that it could not heal everything. It was a little strange to read, but I decided that I really liked it.
Just as a quick primer, because I know it can be confusing--asexuality is the orientation when a person doesn’t feel sexual attraction. They can feel romantic feelings, and they can fall in love. They can like touching and kissing and cuddling. Some are into kink, some aren’t. Some can like sex and be aroused while others can be repulsed by sex. There are hetero-romantic and homo-romantic and pan-romantic and aromantic asexuals. I’ve come to understand that it’s a really wide spectrum of people, where the real commonality is the lack of feeling sexual attraction towards others. (Also, many share the same feelings of confusion, since there is no education about asexuality, that this is something that exists, so you have a bunch of confused people who don’t understand why they don’t feel the same way as others. You have this group wandering around thinking they’re “broken” because there isn’t a lot of understanding or acceptance that who they are is a real thing.)
Now with that said, how did City of Soldiers hold up?
Actually very well. It’s a good novel with compelling characters, an interesting story, and is well-written!
City of Soldiers is not a traditional romance, and that’s not because one of the MCs is asexual. It’s because the focus is on four key characters, and how they relate or have feelings for each other. This is not a journey of one couple getting to their HEA, but of a group of men finding their purpose or their true desires or just someone to love and have love them.
Roman is a young veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury while in service in Afghanistan, and now is back home in Philadelphia, scampering through the tunnels underneath the city with a close-knit group of veterans, all of whom are homeless and carrying various scars and injuries from battle.
Roman is also the soul of the story--a character that draws others to him, because they’re attracted to him, because they’re worried about him (and his habit of losing his memory or wandering off not knowing where he is), or for one, because they want to harm him. He is a sweet, gentle character, who also understands that his asexuality will continue to frustrate those that want more from him.
That includes Sean, nicknamed “prettyboy” by some of the other veterans. Sean is the only one not living on the streets on in shelters, but he is also feeling lost after he was forced out of the military due to an injury. Meeting Roman in one of the underground tunnels suddenly shines a light on his life that he didn’t know he could find again. After that brief encounter, he can’t help but seek more of that light, and he pushes his way into Roman’s world.
Poor Roman. He finds himself drawn to Sean too, but he feels that the truth about himself will never be enough to keep Sean, so when an old friend shows interest in Sean, especially when Sean’s desire for submission and bondage begin to stir, Roman feels compelled to be a good friend and push them together.
“And he’d ask Brackett to be good to Sean. Roman might be destined for a life lived alone, but that didn’t mean other men were too.”
Burke described very well Roman’s dilemma--his lack of desire for sex, but his want for love, to have someone to go home to and sleep next to and wake up to and to love him, even if he doesn’t want to be sexual with them. And she conveys also his grim understanding that there may never be someone who will want to stay with him, and so he sees Sean’s puppy attraction to him as just waiting for the inevitable—to once again be rejected and alone and unloved.
Thankfully, although Sean is confused by Roman’s lack of sexual desire, he still is determined, because he can’t help but feel a desire to be closer to him.
Meanwhile, back on the Philly streets, someone is murdering homeless veterans, and the killer is closing in on Roman and Sean and those they care about. This part of the story was very intriguing and was drawn out in a way that I couldn’t guess who it was until the author started dropping hints in the last half.
I can tell that this isn’t Burke’s first time at the rodeo. Her writing is self-assured and smooth, and her characters are very realized, from sincere Roman to persistent Sean to protective Kristian to controlled Bracket to the gruff Colonel that runs the homeless shelter with her iron fist. Each comes off the page, lived in and very believable, each with their own voice. I’m not usually a fan of multiple POV stories, but this one was handled well and each character was very interesting, so it was easy to travel on these different paths through the story.
That writing ease probably comes from the fact that this is the first novel by “Sam Burke” but not by the author. She has written novels under the penname of Sam Cameron, has won a Lambda Literary Award under the name of Sandra McDonald, and writes fanfic under the name of sendal on archiveofourown.
I see City of Soldiers as a compelling, character-driven novel that is partly a thriller, and has some romantic elements. There is no cheating, but multiple relationships are explored as these characters try to find a balance that will fit for their mix of desires and needs.
My main issue with the book is that I did have some unanswered questions in the end, and I found the climax a little drawn out as characters were coming together, but overall, it’s a gripping read.
No spoilers, but the ending is good for those who are wondering, and for those who are like me, who asked this question to another reviewer before starting, “Is Roman ‘Fixed’ at the end?” Meaning, is his asexuality nulled or removed to have a more “traditional” romance story?
And the answer is “No.” He is not “fixed” or made “normal”. His trajectory is consistent with who he is, which I was very thankful for. I don’t think I could read a story where an asexual character is dramatically changed to fit a more mainstream-accepted relationship or for a wish-fulfillment fantasy where the wish is for them to not be asexual.
Recommended if you’re looking for a compelling read with complex characters and an interesting story. Also recommended if you want to see how an asexual character can be handled since I think Burke did a good job overall. My one misgiving is about the exploration/underlying need for poly, but for these characters, I can only wish them to grasp and hold on to what happiness they find with each other. Because they all deserve it so much.
My hope is that as more awareness comes out about asexual people, more love stories will also follow. Because everyone should have that chance of a love story, especially those who fear that it will always be out of their reach.
There is sex and there is the beginnings of romance here, but this is hardly a straightforward romance/erotic story. This world is complicated and messy with veteran soldiers having to face homelessness, PTSD, lingering injuries/pain and unemployment, a serial killer and complex characters who are gay/bi/asexual and may or may not have different sexual kinks and who meet up with other gay men who are living their own particular stories. Oh yes, AND there may be something supernatural going on as well. A lot is woven into an intriguing read with an ending that leaves a few things open and yet I was perfectly happy with that. That last chapter was just about perfect, like a prayer and a heartfelt hope for all soldiers who have to bear more than anyone should have to.
This book was done really well, it was refreshing, a book that was very different from what I expected and in the best way. As long as it took me to finally took me to actually read it, I was amply rewarded. Highly recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
Genre/sub-genre: M/M Romance/Mystery
Book Format: ebook
Relatable characters: yes