Review: The City

This post will include my review of the book The City by Stella Gemmell. A stand alone book, published in April 2013.

The text below is taken from the blurb on the back of the book.


Built up over the millennia, layer upon layer, the City is ancient and vast. Over the centuries, it has sprawled beyond its walls, the cause of constant war with neighbouring peoples and kingdoms, laying waste to what was once green and fertile.

And at the heart of the City resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Those who have remember a man in his prime and yet he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he ever truly was. And a small number have come to a desperate conclusion: that the only way to stop the ceaseless slaughter is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.

From the rotting, flood-ruined catacombs beneath the City where the poor struggle to stay alive to the blood-soaked fields of battle where so few heroes survive, these rebels pin their hopes on one man. A man who was once the emperor’s foremost general. A man, a revered soldier, who could lead an uprising and unite the City. But a man who was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured and is now believed to be dead…

There was something about this book that kept me from loving it.

The premise was interesting, the world had me wanting to know more, the characters were realistic, and the setting was well thought out, but I just couldn’t get excited about any of it.

The first hundred pages or so had me hooked, but by the end I wasn’t really clear on what actually happened. Did the heroes win? Did the bad guys win? Did anybody win? The finish is still a bit of a mystery to me. Also, there was aspects to the way the story was told that I found annoying – there were times when things that were about to happen were revealed, mini spoilers if you like, that detracted from my sense of surprise when what I already knew was going to happen finally happened.

To give an example of this, one character was annoyed by another character, and as the scene closed was a line similar to “he didn’t know how much her death would hurt him.” So now it wasn’t a case of if that other character would die but when, and that really did take some of the suspense away.

On the plus side, I am very happy to see the name Gemmell on the cover of a new fantasy book, so my dissatisfaction with this story hasn’t (yet) deterred me from giving Stella another chance to make me a loyal fan – as I was of her husband.

When it comes down to it, I liked The City, it was okay.

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