The City is Stella Gemmell’s (widow of the late David Gemmell) true debut onto the Fantasy scene. She finished the last book in the Troy series after her husband died, but The City is all written by her. I figured why not take a shot?
The City is ancient, and no one remembers a time when the Immortal didn’t rule it. But the City has been at war for many generations now, and people are beginning to despair. Few children inhabit the City, as young men and women are sent to war the moment they come of age. No one sees any foreseeable end to the war any more, and a desperate few have come to believe that the only way to stop the war and save the City is to kill the Emperor. To kill the Immortal.
I think I was right to go in without any expectation other than a good story and great writing, because Stella’s style is different from her late husband’s. And there is nothing wrong with that. I just think that if I went in expecting the same larger than life heroes David sculpted so well, I would have been disappointed.
Stella’s heroes aren’t at all the kind of characters that her husband wrote. They are the common man. The lost child struggling to survive. The soldier who is holding on to a promise made long ago. The commander who lost everything.
They are all very human characters and make mistakes. They don’t always have the heroic last stand. They won’t all survive what life throws at them, they might not even see the result of their struggles. And they all stand against creatures who look human, but aren’t. I can’t exactly write what they are, because *spoilers!*, but it’s interesting to see how no one really knows the true history of the City. Only those who were there, at the very beginning.
All the characters have their own distinct flavours and arcs, and the story makes sure each and every one of them gets the spotlight now and again. They all have their parts to play, no matter how small, even though it’s not always easy to see just how their parts have anything to do with the overarching plot at times. But one must learn to be patient.
It opens a little slow, but it picks up the pace pretty quickly and I kept wondering whether or not the grand plan was ever going to succeed. And it kept me on the edge of my seat the last couple of pages as the story approached its climax.
Stella’s debut novel was a great read, and while it does have an ending; it’s a little ambiguous. It’s certainly a stand-alone though, which I like, because I’m trying to read more stand-alones.