I made myself a promise: no more starting a new read until I finish the four partially read books on my coffee table. Not counting the occasional graphic novel. At least one of those books has been on that coffee table unfinished for I think a year, maybe a little more. I here review not that book, but one that I knew I could finish and review before 2018 runs out. I started City of Lies over the summer (July, I think?), got 2/3 way through, got bored, then distracted.
Basically, this is a pretty traditional fantasy adventure in a lot of ways; the crown prince’s un-memorable best friend/ body guard Jovan and his sister Kalina are from a family of poison experts who have served the royal family a long time. The current king and his body guard (Jovan and Kalina’s uncle) die via poison and there is the threat of an uprising/invasion from the countryside that the suddenly new king Tain must try and figure out.
On the less traditional, City of Lies switches back and forth between Kalina and Jovan’s perspective, which took some getting used to, but it worked really well for building character, both the one speaking and his/her observations of the other. They each have their own personal issues to deal with as well as family obligations to consider, and getting other views really helps develop both the characters and the world in which they live. There is a lot of discovery about the truths of their world that Jovan, Kalina, and Tain must accomplish because there are murders to solve and the serious threats from outside the city walls approaching. More than this would be spoilers.
The first hundred-fifty pages and the last hundred-fifty pages have all the action and interesting situations and people. The middle 259 pages are almost entirely hand-wringing (this is where I really started losing interest) until suddenly one of the enemy sneaks into the city to seek peace and explain why the outsiders are so enraged. Then things pick up again, although in somewhat predictable ways. Jovan and one of the outsiders, Hadrea, start to develop a relationship (think Romeo and Juliet except there’s no parents present to muck thing up-both have living parents but they are either absent or not-interfering) while trying to understand each other’s vary different perspectives about their world; Kalina makes a critical discovery about a traitor but will she survive to deliver the message? This is a sort of cliffhanger at the end of the book, except not entirely. More than this, again, would be spoilers.
Overall, I liked the world and many of the characters, and I would read the (hopefully) sequel. I just hope it’s half as long, or better paced than this one. 3.75 stars, rounded up.