I had previously read Perdido Street Station and found it to be too fantastic, so I was hesitant to download this. The City & The City, however, is very realistic, although with an interesting twist. Taken as a gritty detective novel, the plot is well done, suspenseful, and has some interesting turns.
The atmosphere is augmented by the cultural backdrop. It's not clear exactly where the setting is, but is has a distinct Eastern European, bordering on Middle Eastern, color.
The cultural details that arise from the unique relationship between the two cities in the story are very insightful. The willingness of people to "unsee" others and to submit to a seemingly omnipotent agency recall Eastern European, Communist era politics.
Overall, a very interesting and enjoyable book. The narration is very good. The characters could be a little deeper, and the underlying principle of the two cities is a little difficult to buy into completely. Still, the atmosphere draws you in, and the plot keeps you interested.
The story has an interesting premise, and the writing itself is good. To cut to the chase, my problem with the story is the "jumping around" aspect of it. I don't feel fully invested in any of the subplots, because they don't feel like they're "real". They feel like dream sequences where you know you will eventually wake and return to reality. The characters that "jump" to different times don't seem fully invested either, because they will eventually return to their own time. Because of that, I really didn't care much about anything that was going on.
The reading was very good, but it didn't raise my overall rating of the audiobook because it wasn't able correct my issues with the story.
This may be entertaining for a younger audience, but there are too many things wrong with it for a mature reader. The whole plot sounds like it was thrown together on the fly. I understand that the story involves different pantheons, but it seems like the author just came up with a character, made up a list of gods/people/demons that character hates, and repeated until she ate up enough pages. All the characters are one-dimensional, you don't get any real background on any of them. The dialog sounds like it was created by a 16 year old, the author never really finds the right voice for the book. I'm surprised there are so many positive reviews for this book. Obviously, people have different tastes.
I'm clearly in the minority among the listeners here, but I found this story to be mediocre at best. I've read LOTS of books in this genre, including Eddings, Donaldson, Brooks, Anthony, Moorecock. This book is more shallow than most.
The characters are not well developed at all. We don't really know anything about Moraine. She seems to be able to do anything she wants, from putting up walls of fire to healing people. Lan is also a complete unknown, until near the end of the book. We don't really know what motivates any of the other characters, with the exception of Rand. We have some idea of his history, and we know there's some mystery as to his origins. That, however, is what completely gives away his role in the plot. We know from the beginning that he is going to be the "special one" that the story revolves around.
The story seems to wind aimlessly for the most part. They're in the farming village, they're in the evil abandoned city, they get split up. Some of them end up on a boat. Some end up with some kind of traveling gypsy folk. At some point they realize they don't need to go to the magical city, they need to find the "Eye of the world", which we don't know anything about. What's the point of all this? The whole thing seems pretty random.
None of the characters or settings have any real charm. I didn't end up really caring about any of them.
There are some interesting elements to the story. The different factions, like the "Children of Light", and the Red and White factions in the capital city add some realism. Some of the ideas of power and balance are interesting. Overall, though, it's not enough to really bring life to the story.
Let me start with the narration: it comes off a little monotonous and flat. The narrator does a decent job of giving each character a unique voice, but a little more life in the dialog would have been an improvement.
As for the story itself, I found it excellent. The story unfolds intriguingly, the characters are well developed, and the dialog is very well done. It shows a very realistic view of the more base aspects of life. The main character really captures the feelings of being caught in the grind of life, underachieving, the twisted aspects of romantic relationships, and the general drudgery of life.
A minor flaw, in my opinion, is the fact that some of the social commentary is a little obvious. The author takes swipes at corporate greed and consumerism that seem a little forced.
Overall, I found this to be an excellent book, with good narration. I would highly recommend it.
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