The first book of a promising fantasy series.
An oncoming ice age, known as the Freeze, is bringing masses of refugees from a string of islands to the fortress city of Villjamur, seat of the authoritarian Empire. Far outside the walls, battles rage and strange happenings abound; inside, Villjamur is often a rough and violent place. A politician is mysteriously killed, and city investigator Rumex Jeryd—part of a strange race called the rumel—must solve the crime. Meanwhile, the emperor himself suddenly commits suicide, sparking political intrigue; a thief, Randur Estevu, consults with cultists—users of seemingly magical technology—on a mission to save his mother’s life; and far outside the city, Empire Commander Brynd Lathraea confronts a terrifying and inhuman enemy. The novel is fast-moving and intricately plotted, though sometimes a bit gory; one character is ripped apart by grotesque blood beetles, who toss bits of his flesh into the air “in a fine pink mist.” In general, however, the violence serves the story and contributes to the dark tone.
Readers who don’t mind occasional violence will enjoy exploring this impressive world.