A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city in City of Strife. Isandor hasn’t changed—bickering merchant families still vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth—but he has. His family is long dead, a magical trap has dulled his senses, and he returns seeking a sense of belonging now long lost.
Arathiel hides in the Lower City, piecing together a new life among in a shelter dedicated to the homeless and the poor, befriending an uncommon trio: the Shelter’s rageful owner, Larryn, his dark elven friend Hasryan, and Cal the cheese-loving halfling. When Hasryan is accused of Isandor’s most infamous assassination of the last decade, what little peace Arathiel has managed to find for himself is shattered. Hasryan is innocent… he thinks. In order to save him, Arathiel may have to shatter the shreds of home he’d managed to build for himself.
Arathiel could appeal to the Dathirii—a noble elven family who knew him before he disappeared—but he would have to stop hiding, and they have battles of their own to fight. The idealistic Lord Dathirii is waging a battle of honour and justice against the cruel Myrian Empire, objecting to their slavery, their magics, and inhumane treatment of their apprentices. One he could win, if only he could convince Isandor’s rulers to stop courting Myrian’s favours for profit.
In the ripples that follow Diel’s opposition, friendships shatter and alliances crumble. Arathiel, the Dathirii, and everyone in Isandor fights to preserve their homes, even if the struggle changes them irrevocably. (via Goodreads)
I thought I would love this book from reading the summary. I did a character interview with Larryn right before the book came out, and knew I would love it.I also desperately love the cover. So I made myself wait forever to read it. I know that makes no sense, but that was my reasoning.
I will start this with trigger warnings for: abuse (physical, emotional, mind control — seriously, if depictions of abuse trigger you, please be very careful when approaching this novel/avoid it.), torture, homelessness, child abandonment, police brutality, racism, family death, memory loss, death by fire (mention) and hanging.
All that being said, I loved it even more than I expected to.
I really loved the cast of characters – Cal in particular stole my heart and I would love to be his friend forever. I want Nevian to find peace and friendship, and to truly learn to use his magic. I also want him to find someone (or several someones) that respects his boundaries, because his boundaries are constantly violated in so many ways throughout this book. I also loved that pretty much every character we learn anything about was some flavor of queer, and that was totally okay.
Avenazar is the most horrible of people ever to be created, and I love how absolutely villainous he is. I also hate him to the depths of my soul. That may sound dramatic, but I promise you, it isn’t. If anyone doesn’t despise Avenazar after his first appearance, run far, far away from them. They are no good. Seriously.
Going back to the book, this book had a lot of fantastic worldbuilding. I loved every minute of it. I love the idea of a city in levels, and am completely intrigued by so many facets of their society. I can’t wait to see more of their world and find out more about everything! And see Avenazar get his ass kicked.