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The Tainted City (The Shattered Sigil) Paperback – September 25, 2012
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About the Author
After college she moved to the climber’s paradise of Boulder, Colorado, and somehow managed to get a masters degree in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado in between racking up ski days and peak climbs. She now works in the aerospace industry and is married to an Australian scientist who shares her love for speculative fiction and mountain climbing. She’s had to slow down a little on the adrenaline sports since the birth of her son, but only until he’s old enough to join in. She writes every spare moment she's not working or adventuring with her family.
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Top Customer Reviews
In The Tainted City, we pick up their story some months later. Both are prisoners of the Alathians, Dev in a work camp, and Kiran asked to use his magical abilities and research on behalf of Alathia's protection. Neither is really trusted, especially Kiran, given his training in the art of blood magic. But when an opportunity comes for them to accompany an expedition back to Ninavel to find out more about a series of earthquakes and disruptions that threaten the integrity of Alathia's protections, Dev and Kiran find themselves again caught in plots and events larger than they first realize. Plots upon which not only hang their fates, and those they care for, but the entire city of Ninavel, and beyond.
I truly enjoyed The Whitefire Crossing, and I approached sequel with that peculiar mix of anticipation and dread that I often have when returning to a new author whose first book I enjoyed. Will this second book meet my expectations and response to the first? Has the author grown and developed since their initial effort? Is the magic still there?
Happily, for me, The Tainted City lived up to my expectations and wishes for a sequel. Its strengths are many, and I would like to start with the worldbuilding and the setting. Although we get some scenes within the mountains (no surprise, given the author's interests), the focus and the heart of the story is firmly set in the city of Ninavel. The author brings the city of Mages to life as convincingly and in as much depth and evocation of sense of place as she does the Mountains. Also, the magic system worldbuilding is well done. We get a better sense of what Blood Magic is, what it can and can't do. We also get to see, briefly, one other form of magic. I would have liked to see what other kinds of magic there are in this world; there are intimations in both novels that there are many schools and varieties of sorcery, even if Blood Magic is amongst the most powerful and dark.
Character and the writing that evokes it is the other strength I want to mention here. Like its predecessor, the novel alternates between a first person perspective for Dev, and a third person perspective focusing on Kiran. The character voices are strong. An event early on does act as a large reset button on their relationship, perhaps too much of one. However, this has the salutary effect of helping make The Tainted City stand very much on its own rather than being a sequel dependent on the first novel. The writing carefully invokes and reveals the events of the first book in a holistic and believable manner. As a new reader, you could start here without any difficulty. Beyond that reset button, though, there are solid character arcs and growth for the main characters and the secondary characters as well, providing solid payoffs for those who key off of character development more than worldbuilding.
What could have been better about The Tainted City? Especially with the ever growing complicated landscape and geopolitical world, a map and concordance was sorely missed. This is a big and rich world, and more and more of it is impacting on the story, even if the story itself is physically set in only a slice of it. And I am still undecided about that aforementioned reset button.
Like its predecessor, The Tainted City fits on the stakes scale between sword and sorcery and wide-screen epic fantasy in a convincing way. As mentioned above, you can start here, if you really wanted to. I can't imagine why you would want to do so, and I actively recommend you start with The Whitefire Crossing. As for me, I am absolutely up for the third book in The Shattered Sigil series.
The great thing is that it's even better than the first book in that not only does it have the same streetwise outlook of Dev, and Kiran's emotional journey back to the city he fled, but it's a crack mystery, with turn on turn of events as they all try to solve the attacks on the city's source of power and also its water supply. Attacks that are not only baffling to the darkest of mages, but which threaten to destroy the entire city.
As with the first book, you never know what will happen next, or who can be trusted, and you're taken along for a ride as Dev tries to navigate both the backstreets he grew up in and the world of mages and their power plays at the highest levels of the city.
The heart of the story, though, is his friendship with Kiran, and here it's tested in a way neither could have expected. I won't give it away, but it's gripping in how the events unfold from it as Kiran struggles with being a blood mage with strong bonds to his fellow assistant and their master, Ruslan, who'd like nothing more than to wipe out Dev and his companions.
Working with Dev are the Alathians, the more refined mages from the neighboring kingdom, who have held Kiran hostage and are using Dev to help them save the power source that protects their border. They have no trust of Ruslan, and even fight within themselves in how to fulfill their mission.
What works really well is how, even with all this conflict, the plot doesn't simply set one group against the other - they're forced by circumstance to work together to solve the mystery and discover the source of their attacker's power, which both frightens and confounds them. This really adds to the tension as each group tries to outmaneuver the other.
The worldbuilding is excellent with layers of history and various cultures, and yet you're not told anything you don't need to know, and each character not only reacts to the world and its various subcultures, but is motivated by it as well. It was also great to see most of the characters from Whitefire reappear, some in surprising ways.
The title Tainted City is a play on those with the Taint, a form of magic only a few children can wield, and it's these few that ganglords use to commit robberies, which adds a touch of Dickens. How the author sets this untraceable, more rudimentary magic against the higher levels of the mages makes for some dramatic moments, in which even the strongest mages are vulnerable.
About the only fault is one stretch in chapter five that's a bit slow, as they prepare to take on their mission, but it gives time to add depth to the characters before they're thrown into the fire of Ninavel.
In short, it's like a fantasy take on "Chinatown," with deceit, revenge, street chases, murders, backroom deals, cool magic, and spies, all centered around a mystery that Dev and Kiran must solve to save themselves and the city. And yet the core of the story is how they're tested again and again in their friendship and trust. And if that weren't enough, there's even some mountain climbing, too.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I decided to read The Whitefire Crossing attracted by a couple of good reviews I had seen from trusted sources and the fact that...Read more
Fun all the way.