The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

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The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Erin Hull
Reviewed by Erin Hull
Summary: Fun, gory and gripping, Sykes has created substantial multi-perspective fantasy story. Though it lacked some complexity and flair, it was an enjoyable journey to follow.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 656 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0575132184

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This story follows a ragtag team made up of murderers and misfits. Through with adventure and being paid to kill, Lenk leads the gang into the grand silk city of Cier'Djaal to hunt for the man who was yet to pay them for their service. Lenk is determined to live a normal human life and may be willing to leave his friends behind in order to do so, but soon they become tied up in a religious war that wreaks chaos upon the city and their plans for peace.

I did not realise before going into this book that it is was a spin off from a previous trilogy, so perhaps that is why the world building felt a bit underdeveloped to me. Of course, most fantasy books have a list of terms that are impossible to pronounce, but half way through the book I was still unsure of what they meant (I've already forgotten what a shkainai is). The grit and grime of an old city offers so much to explore and our visit to the Sumps was highly effective, but I would have liked to have found out more about it and how it compares to the outside of the city.

I also found that it took a while to feel attached to the characters, probably because Lenk, Kataria, Gariath, Denaos and Dreadaeleon is a very large cast of main characters and they were often off on their own tasks. We do get to follow all of their points of view but since there were so many to follow by the time you come back to one you've forgotten what it was they were doing. It's best to read this book quickly as it dives between characters and reading only a little at a time leads to confusion.

Each character had their own specific issue to deal with and it was very interesting to watch them overcome or question them, particularly in the case of Gariath, the loner inhuman dragonman, who slowly came to ponder his own violence and attitude towards humans. Overall, Asper was the best character as, although she is not sure of her place in the world, she is sure of her morals and is undoubtedly selfless.

It never really seemed clear why these characters were together, which you may find out by reading Sykes' previous trilogy but I still would have liked to find out more from the book about how they came together and what their lives were like before they met each other. It just seemed strange that these characters, all so different, ended up in the same group.

A great aspect of this book was how unapologetically brutal and gruesome it could be. Demons' fingers clawing their way out of throats, heads severed and replaced with those of animals, throats cut, blood gushing, it was all disturbing and disgusting and enthralling to read. Sykes acknowledges that this is a team of murderers we are following and that they cannot leave this role behind (as much as some may like to). Tensions were perfectly built, battles were epically fought and, though it was not always clear what everyone was fighting for, it was so entertaining.

I found this story to be a fun fantasy tale. I was not overly impressed with the world but ultimately the plot was gripping and provided an effective set up for the next book. I'm not dying to pick up the next one but I'm definitely excited to see how the plot develops and what happens to the characters.

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Buy The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes at


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