The blurb: The City is ancient, layers upon layers. Once a thriving metropolis, it has sprawled beyond its bounds, inciting endless wars with neighboring tribes and creating a barren wasteland of what was once green and productive.
In the center of the City lives the emperor. Few have ever seen him, but those who have recall a man in his prime, though he should be very old. Some grimly speculate that he is no longer human, if he ever was. A small number have come to the desperate conclusion that the only way to stop the war is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.
From the mazelike sewers below the City, where the poor struggle to stay alive in the dark, to the blood-soaked fields of battle, where few heroes manage to endure the never-ending siege, the rebels pin their hopes on one man—Shuskara. The emperor’s former general, he was betrayed long ago and is believed to be dead. But, under different aliases, he has survived, forsaking his City and hiding from his immortal foe. Now the time has come for him to engage in one final battle to free the City from the creature who dwells at its heart, pulling the strings that keep the land drenched in gore.
My review: Having recognised the name David Gemmell in relation to Stella, but never having read any of his books I wasn’t sure what to expect from this fantasy debut. The title should have given me a clue, this is an ambitious novel set on another world with all the complexities you would expect from a fantasy city.
This is a completely immersive tale told from various characters viewpoints. The City is a living, breathing organism, ruled over by an elite group whose origins are unknown, the City feeds on its surroundings and desolates all natural resources. It is a melting pot of resentments, from the disparity in class to the fear created by the elusive Emperor and his secret Police. But the characters are never lost, with a backdrop this huge it could easily overpower the human side to this story, luckily it doesn’t and Stella handles the multiple strands with a deftness that can’t help but draw you in.
The City is an epic to end all epics! Highly recommended if you have a spare month (it’s long!) and want to read something completely immersive!
9 out of 10 stars! *********
BUY ME! The City