Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
city of broken magic (Mirah Bolender)
Title: city of broken magic
Author: Mirah Bolender
Publication Date: TODAY!! (paperback/e-book)
I was excited about this book when I heard about it. The hook – a group of monsters that eat magic and everything else that they can get a hold of. The only thing standing in the way are a group called sweepers. These sweepers are described on Amazon as “bomb squad that defuses magic weapons.” The blurb claims that sweepers are non-magical beings and that a sweeper named Laura is all that stands between the city and annihilation. Part of the problem with this book is that the blurb and this descriptions are NOT what the book is about. Laura is not the last sweeper left standing. The sweepers are not non-magical. The sweepers do not feel like a bomb squad at all.
The positive things that made me finish the book were:
- I loved the characters in this book. The main character, Laura, was intelligent, daring, snarky, and caring. This type of character always floats me boat. I also liked her teacher, Clae, and the other apprentice. I even liked the side characters like Morgan, Laura’s aunt who cares about her niece but just doesn’t understand anything about her.
- I liked the weird monsters and how they manifested. I loved the opening scene told from the monster’s point of view. I wanted to know more about the monsters and how they worked.
While those things keep me reading, the world-building and plot made it harder and harder to finish the book. Unfortunately, there were major issues that made this an unlikable read for me.
- The Monsters – Well this be the entire reason I wanted to read this book. I love me some fierce fighting of nasty beasties. Sadly the fighting was lackluster. There never seemed to be any real tactics for fighting or finding them. The two responses seemed to be throwing bombs at them and running away from them. Luck not strategy seemed to decide every encounter.
- The Magic – This was one of those books where ye be thrown into the magic system and have to learn as ye go. There are cool hints to how the magic is used. The main basis for magic use is amulets. I liked the idea that these amulets are highly regulated. They have to be cataloged, recharged, and recycled. However, they also made no sense. For example, if ye use them as an assassination technique there be no guarantee that the target would die. Like why try to kill a rich man by putting one in the kitchen – a place he would never go in? Plus to use one like that means that the city might be destroyed. Dumb.
- Info-Dumping – I don’t mind learning the world structure or rules as the story progresses. I do hate info-dumping. In this story, the plot abruptly stops so that Laura can give lessons to the other apprentice (a former slave) in history, magic use, politics, etc. And it is furtively done while her teacher is out. I didn’t find the history or piecemeal magic explanations to be anything but boring and nonsensical.
- The Training – This is one of those books where the teacher withholds vital information. There is only the teacher and two students protecting the entire city. If the teacher dies then the city is screwed. So why wouldn’t there be an open exchange of knowledge? Makes no sense. His method of teaching is mostly to learn on the job. No wonder he lost eight former apprentices. They spend a ton of time sitting in the shop waiting for clients or police to inform them of monster attacks. Shouldn’t that time be spent training or investigating? Also the teacher, Clae, makes the point multiple times that book learning is pointless. Then DO something.
- The Social Structure- Much of this book is spent focused on how Laura is not in the norm because she doesn’t want to get married or wear dresses. And yet the police chief is a woman. A major politician is a woman. A investigative journalist is a woman. Lots of seekers in other cities are women. These facts go against the author’s own premise of the society.
- Diversity – I support diversity in literature. Yet this book seems set in a “normative” society. Heterosexual relationships. Standard gender roles. Monogamy. Then randomly, Clae and his student have an awkward conversation about past relationships. There is a random lesbian relationship thrown in. In the context of the story, this seemed tossed in to fill a check box and to help set up a future romantic relationship between teacher and student. I was not a fan.
- Plot – There really wasn’t a cohesive story line or decent explanations for events. It felt like the author had filler around the couple of scenes she wanted to write. This book felt more like a very rough first draft that needed massive editing and rewrites. This concept should have the reader on edge instead of trying to make sense of what is happening most of the time.
Fun concepts here. I wish this one would have focused on the monster battles and how the monster fighting community works! Shame because I wanted to like this one. Unfortunately it must walk the plank! Arrrr!
So lastly . . .
Thank you Macmillian-Tor/Forge!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
Five hundred years ago, magi created a weapon they couldn’t control. An infestation that ate magic—and anything else it came into contact with. Enemies and allies were equally filling.
Only an elite team of non-magical humans, known as sweepers, can defuse and dispose of infestations before they spread. Most die before they finish training.
Laura, a new team member, has stayed alive longer than most. Now, she’s the last—and only—sweeper standing between the city and a massive infestation.
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