Review: City Stained Red
This book was written for me. I wish I had written this book. Sam Sykes is a nice man and he showed me pictures of owls on twitter until I decided to read this book, that also happens to be excellent.
That said there are times when I was reading The City Stained Red that I was pretty sure it was terrible. It seemed to start in the middle third of a D&D campaign that wasn't going to end well. The characters all lean on some well trodden recognizable tropes in an opening that had me concerned I was about to read a real absurdist tale.
Instead, over the course of the novel there's a nice growth to all of these characters, its strange because they are acting like fully developed multi-dimensional characters and it took me a while to notice, and they looked like tropes to me because that's what I am used to having at the start of the usual books that pass my eyes. The setting was the same way. There's no wasted energy in the world building, where even small details of cultural identity and the mechanics of the city's bureaucracy were used to grow characters, move the plot, create misleading information, and sometimes all of that at once.
To love this like I do, you definitely need to be deep into fantasy to enjoy this. This book revels in its roots rich run deep into the genre. You also need to put up with some level of violence but I don't think that I would say that it's gratuitous or puts it into the flavor of grimdark. The only big complaint that I have is how many loose threads are open at the end of the novel. But if you love fantasy you need to be ready to commit to a series. This is, as I've said, some fantasy ass fantasy.
The City Stained Red gets three stars out of five.