Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Drowning City

The Drowning City by Amanda Downum

I liked this one more than it perhaps warranted, looking back at it now the work seems kind of low in ambition and overall depth. Especially now writing after the last review, I feel compelled to compare The Drowning City to In Great Waters, which does no favor to Downum's work. The more I look at the work at a distance, the more it seems like too fews ideas drawn out over too long a story, with an unegaging but not hugely imaginative environment.

For all that qualification I did fund the book an enjoyable trip. Engaging characters, good dark atmosphere, some effective political intrigue. The main plot feels somewhat stock but is also a form I don't recall seeing before--the story follows two visitors to the harsh and oppressive city, their intent being to stir up discontent and rebellion. Not because it's a violent and exploitative place (although it is, and that's what create some major fault-lines in the polity) but as a way of protecting the agents' society by undermining a potential rival. It's an interesting setup for the encounter, largely because it puts the momentum on the heroes, making them more proactive--a different tact that the usual defensive effort to foil the villain's plans.

As well the atmosphere involved in this society does deserve credit, making an effective atmosphere of wealth, disenfranchisement, intrigue and a growing sense of crisis as the book proceeded closer and closer to the deluge. I believe this is the author's first book, and it makes me interested in followup. The whole thing isn't as innovative or genre-bending as a lot of the recent fantasy I've liked, but there's enough variety to make it feel fresh and enough attention to the nuts and bolts to make for a satisfying story.

Worse than: In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield

Better than: The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

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