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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Jovan is the quiet and forgettable friend of Tain, the Chancellor’s charming yet irresponsible Heir. He's also a master of poisons and chemicals. He has been trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from unknown dangers. When the Chancellor falls to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect Tain and save the city-state of Silasta. But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising...and angry.
City of Lies by Sam Hawke is now easily one of my favorite reads of 2018 - and one of the best debut novels I've read all year long. Believe me when I saw that you need this fantasy novel in your life. The author's writing style immediately hooked me - right from the first line actually. What kept me coming back for more though was the author's stunning world-building and her brilliant character development, plus there's a fascinating magic system to back everything up. This book is over 500 pages and I was so enamored by her style that I managed to speed through it in what amounted to three or four reading binges. I didn't want to put my Kindle down for a second, but unfortunately work got in the way. If I'd had my way, I would have attempted to devour it in only one sitting!
Like I said before, this novel has some of the best world-building I've had the opportunity to experience this year. The city-state of Silasta is practically a character on its own. It's so vividly presented I felt like I could have walked the streets with Jovan, Kalina, and Tain at my side. The description of the setting with everything from daily operations, class, political and societal views, and religion (and the lies everything is built upon, naturally) is so tightly threaded into the core of the story that it felt like a living and breathing entity. Even though we really only get to see the city-state of Silasta with a taste of other locales, the story never managed to feel restricted in anyway since we have such a great sense of Silasta it becomes more than just a place in the mind of the reader.
This debut also features some truly remarkable characters with Jovan, Kalina, and Tain. Like with the world they inhabit, I truly felt like over the course of more than 500 pages I got a great sense of who they were as people as they progressed and developed. The story is told in alternating POVs between Jovan and his sister Kalina. I loved getting to know both of them, but I found myself drawn to the chronically ill Kalina in particular - as great as Jovan is Kalina really steals all of her scenes as she goes toe to toe with her equally skilled brother. As much as I enjoy a fantasy featuring assassins, I have to say it was brilliant seeing the reverse here with leading characters who have been tasked with preventing assassination via poisoning.
Overall, City of Lies by Sam Hawke is an absolutely brilliant debut that I can't recommend enough. You will want to devour this fantasy all at once because you can't put it down. If you like V.E. Schwab, I have a feeling you'll be just as impressed by Sam Hawke's storytelling, character developing, and world-building abilities. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing where the Poison Wars series goes from here. It's going to be brilliant, I can feel it!
I read this ARC from July 1 - 6, 2018 and my review is also on Goodreads. City of Lies by Sam Hawke was released on July 3rd, 2018.