If you are not already familiar with the “fantasy legend” that is Sam Sykes, then get thee to a book shop! I had previously read the Aeons Gate trilogy by the same author so was very pleased to hear that another series was to be expected and with the same characters.
Sam Sykes weaves a gritty, twisting and winding staircase of a story. And this novel is no exception. There are dark moments, there are moments in which there is enough destruction to rival the explosions of a Michael Bay picture, and of course all of this sprinkled with a delicious frosting of Sam Sykes humour.
“You can’t lie to a sword.”
But more importantly to all of this, its about the characters. And as previously mentioned, The City Stained Red sees the Lenk, Kataria, Asper, Dreadaeleon, Gariath, and Denaos tracking down the priest who owes the adventurers gold. And to do this they must enter Cier’ Djaal, the City of Silk. Oh, and do it without killing each other first.
Sam Sykes has taken a city that in theory sounds wounderful in name, but is hell in so many ways. The spiders are the main source of income to the city’s fashas and the poor are very poor. The city devours its own and spits their carcasses into the Souk. There is tension everywhere, on a knife’s edge ready to fall one way or the other, and thats just a glimpse of the Cieer’ Djaal! Oh, and to add a very dangerous weight to tip the balance, a demon by the name of Koth Khapira is trying to return, and his cultist followers are making way for his impending arrival.
“I cant imagine any God would be boring enough to want to know how everything ends.”
The story takes place completely in the confines of Cier’ Djaal and is a very engaging read. The character POV switches keep the pacing nice and quick and this book definitely had a real nice pace to it. The timing of fight scenes and of the humour is absolutely bang-on. At times there are moments after a bloody big scrap (and I mean bloody) where all seems to be calm-ish and something particularly funny will be said. And this one thing I wanted to mention the humour from the characters is done in an incidental manner i.e no one is trying to be funny. When Gariath says something that could come across as humorous, he isnt doing it because he thinks its funny, he is doing it because he is a large, red dragonman who has little patience for humans and their conversational behaviours, and saying one thing but meaning the opposite. Now to the reader his impatience and abrutness can come across as funny in the way that he does things.
“Moustaches are inherently villainous.”
Sam Sykes has crafted a splendid adventure story here, and I really had times where I could not put the book down and forced myself with eyes so tired to read one more chapter, and then another. The diversity between the characters and their voices is fantastic and I noticed that my favourite character changed constantly, (right now its Gariath … Or, Kataria. Doh!) Im very much looking forward to what happens in book two, and as for The City Stained Red there are some moments that you will really not see coming and some that will leave the reader wondering how the characters are going to get through it all. Alive.
The City Stained Red is out now from Gollancz and you can find more about the author from his website http://www.samsykes.com also on twitter where is tweets are rather brilliant, so if you are not already following him he is @SamSykesSwears