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Review: City of Wonders by James A. Moore

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City of Wonders is a deeply immersive book, one that will hook you from start to finish. The pace is fast and furious as this is the first book of the Great War. The Sa'ba Taalors attack with all their might in all directions, conquering the Fellein Empire from city to city, by way of land and by way of sea. Where a city fell, a burning mountain springs from deep within the earth in an instant. War truly has come.

Authors: James A. Moore
Date Published: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Angry Robot
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 0857665065
Edition: ebook (I got a free e-ARC via Netgalley)

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Old Canhoon, the City of Wonders, is having a population explosion as refugees from Tyrne and Roathes alike try to escape the Sa’ba Taalor. All along the border between the Blasted Lands and the Fellein Empire armies clash and the most powerful empire in the world is pushed back toward the old Capital. From the far east the Pilgrim gathers an army of the faithful, heading for Old Canhoon.

In Old Canhoon itself the imperial family struggles against enemies old and new as the spies of their enemies begin removing threats to the gods of the Seven Forges and prepare the way for the invading armies of the Seven Kings. In the distant Taalor valley Andover Lashk continues his quest and must make a final decision, while at the Mounds, something inhuman is awakened and set free.

War is Here. Blood will flow and bodies will burn.


Review

I have been pining for this book since May 2014, the week I discovered the series, Seven Forges, on Netgalley. Fortunately for me, I read the entire series by ARCs alone. *evil laughter*

For better reading experience, read this book while listening to music by Two Steps From Hell. The experience was really amazing to me.

The Seven Forges truly has such an awesome world-building. James Moore was able to create an impressive world for his characters to dwell, similar to what you'd feel watching animations by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, only brutal. Here in City of Wonders, James Moore was able to engross me with such a realistic fantasy as if I was really in Trecharch with his descriptive prose. It's way more immersive than the role-playing games I play. City of Wonders reminds me a lot of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit for his keen attention to details and James Cameron's film, The Avatar with Trecharch people's worship of a great vine and their city, a great green forest.
If the people of Trecharch could be said to worship any deities, they would be the Mother-Vine and the Walking Trees.
I never liked Avatar's premise. I was done watching the film with a raised brow. What James Moore created for the town of Trecharch was akin to that of Avatar and James the writer did it way better. It is important to note since it's what you will mostly experience in the book. Oddly enough, I'm reminded of the whole series by the world of Naruto with each town's varying conditions. Yes, towns differ. There's even a town where if you attack it, you'll vanish on the spot.

So where does Old Canhoon come into picture? And why is this book titled "City of Wonders"? It's in the climax of the book so I won't taco 'bout it.


The series also has an impressive characterization of its characters. The introductory part, Jost's POV whiplashed me with its awesomeness. I can't tell much to avoid spoiler. Of course, Swech does a lot here too. Hers is one that will shock you. Just wait for it.

The Sa’ba Taalor may be the stars of the show but they are such evil stars. Between the Sa'ba Taalor and the people of Fellein, I honestly don't know which one to root for despite the former's malevolent disposition.

Tuskandru has done terrible things but they never diminish my love for him. I have always known he's a merciless king. For certain, I will always be rooting for him. Everybody else can die in this book, it's him I want to stay. This is another thing I love about Seven Forges series: it paves way for fandom not because of romance but because of a character's sheer characterization.

As it turned out I wasn't wrong after all when I expressed in my review of the first book that the Daxar Taalor are gods of combat materials. Each of them is indeed a god of a specific matter and a god of a certain wisdom.

So far this is what I could gather:
  • Glo’Hosht – Chosen of the forge of Paedle (God of Mercury and of Silent Death) King in Mercury
  • Lored – Chosen of the forge of Ordna and King in Bronze
  • Tarag Paedori – Chosen of the forge of Truska-Pren and King in Iron
  • Unknown – Chosen of the forge of Wheklam (God of the Sea, of Lead and of group conflict) and King in Lead
  • Tuskandru – Chosen of the forge of Durhallem and King in Obsidian
  • Unknown – Chosen of the forge of Ydramil (God of Silver and Reflection) and King in Silver
  • Unknown – Chosen of the forge of Wrommish and King in Gold
Perhaps I could fill all that in by the last book. I certainly hope not. I want to know all about them soon.

These are the things I jotted down while still reading:
  • There are unexpected deaths, broke me a bit.
  • There's parallelism to Rome when it comes to faith.
  • Of course, one must not miss an underground expedition.
  • Damn, another zombie story in the house. What better way to do things than raise the dead? Just as usual.
  • The Swech surprise.
  • Another Dark City movie comences.

As I close the book, I was wondering why it has an open ending. Reading James Moore's interviews online, I realized he intended to finish the series in about 6 books with the Great War encompassing 4 books. As the second book (The Blasted Lands) paved way for war (when Empress Nachia Krous refused to marry Tarag Paedori, Chosen of the Forge Truska-Pren and King in Iron, because his parley offers nothing), then City of Wonders is just the first of four books about the Great War.

So much is already happening in this book, you could expect more bloodshed in the coming three books, and I don't know how James Moore could make the other three more brutal than City of Wonders as the series tends to go for the worse (when battle is concerned) for every book released.

I still have a hard time visualizing the world where Fellein empire stands as there's still no map for the series. Perhaps, James Moore will finally have a map drawn for the series when the last book is released and all the books of the series printed from that time will have a map. I think that would be a nice marketing strategy because I remember when the last book of Harry Potter was released, the whole set came with a chest box. I didn't buy the chest box because I already have my own set of hard-bound books with each book reserved and bought on its first day of release, but I recall two friends buying the chest box even if they already had copies simply because of the box.

I will surely buy the Seven Forges box when that happens.

By the way, afar I'm not shipping this book's cover but up close, it looks cool.

Quotes I couldn't miss:

Wisdom often comes from those with the least to lose, Merros.


Well, if not wisdom then certainly truth. If you’ve nothing to lose you’ve nothing to fear losing.


Still, one does what one must.


Life is pain. War is change. The raw materials of life hammered and shaped into something with a purpose.


The best way to end a war is to make certain that it never happens. The best way to win a war is to change the shape of the battles to suit your needs.

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