Hey all, Dani here.
The reviews just keep rolling out, and in trying to keep the balance between current reads and backlisted ones, today is one of my recently finished book reviews. What is going to be great and yet difficult about this particular book is that it blew my mind, and so it is making it difficult to read other books. I’m diving into a pile of manga so I don’t end up sinking into a reading slump. But this awesome epic fantasy was just amazing. I can already very safely say that it will be making it on my top reads of 2019 post.
Anyway, let’ s just jump into it.
In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new fantasy series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.
Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.
But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.
Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.
To have a chance at surviving–and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way–Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.
Rating: 5 stars
Okay, so I’ll be honest…I have bought two other Robert Jackson Bennett books (City of Stairs and City of Blades), and have wanted to read them for a couple years now, but just haven’t picked them up. Then this book hits my radar thanks to upcoming fantasy release lists and also the wonderful booktuber Reagan from Peruse Project hyping it up. And the front cover blurb is from Brandon Sanderson, who is one of my all-time favorite fantasy authors. So with everything I was hearing about this book, I had pretty darn high expectations.
This book met and/or exceeded all of them. It was just amazing. I found myself torn between taking my time and savoring the book, or just devouring it in a couple settings. I ended up being able to make the reading process last about a week, but it was difficult, because I was so fascinated by what was going on that I just wanted to keep on reading.
The magic system is actually a technological system called scriving. Those who know how to scrive can inscribe certain strings of sigils onto an item and change the way the item thinks about what it is or what it does. For instance you can inscribe a block of wood to believe that it is as dense as iron, which makes the wood that much stronger. Or you can scrive a door to only open when it is presented with specially designated passkeys.
Each of the founding houses of the city of Tevanne have their own language of scriving code, which keeps others from stealing or reproducing their work. The campos, or parts of the city that are controlled by the respective four remaining founding houses have their own rules and police and all of that. Then there is the rest of the city, known as the Commons. It is pretty much lawless.
The Commons is where Sancia, a thief, lives. She is just trying to earn enough money so she can fix herself. She touches things and it is like she mentally becomes that thing, which is super helpful for her thieving, but limits her life in every other way. This leads her to take on a dangerous yet well-paying job, one that ends up having far more consequences than she could have imagined. It is this job that leads her to be tangled up with Gregor Dandolo, the son of one of the founding homes, and Orso, the hypatus (or master scriver) of the Dandolo family. With Orso’s assistant and then a couple of self-taught scrivers from the Commons, this group will learn of a dangerous plot to recreate the scrivings of the hierophants, a feat that would pretty much mean godhood.
There is a lot of technological chatter amongst the characters, as well as discussion of ethics and history.
My favorite character is actually Clef, who is the sentient being inside the key Sancia stole at the beginning of the novel. Clef has a way of talking to any and all scrivings, and he’s pretty good at getting them to do things. He was just a fascinating and entertaining character.
This book has political intrigue and action and even a little romance…well, rather little romance, but it’s still there. I so loved this book, and it definitely makes me want to jump into Robert Jackson Bennett’s other books.