Much of City of Lies’ appeal lies in Hawke’s writing style, and the depth and narrative potential of its world and characters. But the most interesting aspect is its approach to conflict. Unlike most typical fantasy works, Hawke presents both sides of a religious war as sympathetic. This is a plot that seems to be full of antagonists, but is actually populated with basically decent people who cannot communicate with each other, either because they do not understand each other’s concerns or because their complaints are too deeply held to be negotiable. Even the real masterminds are merely selfish rather than evil. As a result, City of Lies is a story that resonates beyond its pages without overtly moralizing, which is a rare achievement in any genre. All told, Sam Hawke’s debut is an engaging, tense and deeply relevant story within an intriguing world that lends itself well to further exploration.
The book’s title refers not only to lies between characters, in conversation and politics, but to falsehoods within the very terrain and nature of the city itself, its establishment, nature, and ongoing existence. This approach makes for a fantastic dive into worldbuilding. It truly helps make Silastra feel like a real place that you can go and follow the trade routes and reach and explore, especially as we learn more and more about Silatra’s dark past and obscurely dark present. It also makes that aforementioned siege feel like the slowly constricting grasp around its inhabitants ... The book has a interesting, diverse, and compelling set of secondary characters ... The novel is much more than its setting and its excavation of that setting, however. You cannot succeed in this subgenre if you don’t have compelling protagonists who avoid being swallowed and consumed by the city they belong to. In this, the author mainly succeeds, although Jov comes off better than Kalina ... By the end of City of Lies, which does end a bit frustratingly without a great off-ramp, there is clear direction and room for a sequel ... Bring forth more city-state fantasy!
The attention to detail is amazing, be it the landscape or the characters. And I will be honest, I am not always a fan of debut novels, as I find that they often lack refinement. This one, however, was leaps and bounds above the norm ... this book was superbly written—intrigue and suspense reign supreme. The politics of the region and the aloofness of the city itself are world building at its finest ... I would not be surprised to find myself picking this as my favorite debut book of the year ... enjoy this first taste with the knowledge that more is to come!
When the city is besieged by a rebellious army, residents must figure out how to survive. Can Tain, Jovan, and his sister Kalina find a way to root out internal and external betrayals and save the Heir and Silasta? ... This epic fantasy debut weaves political, class, and belief systems into a deftly drawn world, laying fertile ground for exciting political commentary.
Can Hanrea help keep the Darfari calm before more uprisings occur? Can Kalina get to Aven, the warrior-guilder, in time to save the city from destruction? Hawke’s first entry in the Poison Wars series is an engrossing fantasy that combines mystery and political intrigue.
A tightly wound and ever escalating plot is complemented by the cast's refreshing nuances ... Even when magic comes into play the story never loses its essentially human and relatable scale, making it stand out from more sprawling, cinematic fare. A well-crafted debut with believable political intrigues, solid worldbuilding, and original characters.
Australian author Hawke launches her Poison War epic fantasy series with this exhaustive and imaginative exposé of capitalistic corruption ... Hawke’s often violent and always detail-oriented narrative dwells heavily on episodes of the protracted siege as the springboard for political commentary, chiefly through Tain’s experiences of growing into maturity as a humane man and pragmatic ruler. This colorful and exciting tale occasionally stretches the limits of belief, but fantasy fans will still enjoy it and eagerly anticipate its coming sequel.