City of Wonders by James A Moore

You should really be reading this series.
City of Wonders book cover

Book of the Year 2015 (see all)

City of Wonders by James A. Moore is the third book in the Seven Forges series, an epic fantasy interpretation of David and Goliath. Moore did not start out as an epic fantasy author, his roots are firmly planted in the horror realm, and those roots show through here as Moore gives us some truly imaginative and chilling moments. You should really be reading this series.

The story takes place directly after the cataclysmic event that rocked the world to its core. There is no more escalation of tensions, it is all out war, and the Sa'ba Taalor are marching across the Fellein Empire destroying cities and forests and gods and anything else that happens across their path. All roads converge on Old Canhoon, a final refuge for the Fellein empire, known to everyone as the City of Wonders. Can the secrets of this city help the Fellein withstand the Sa'ba Taalor onslaught?

The Seven Forges series is packed full of viewpoints from many, many characters, and City of Wonders continues to expand on the already lengthy cast of characters, offering the reader a forest dwelling community who worship the Mother-Vine, a prophet who leads a pilgrimage to the City of Wonders in hope that the war-god of the Fellein can be raised from slumber, an inquisitor who works directly for Empress Nachia to weed out any traitors, and more. I love that Moore is allowing us to observe this story from multiple viewpoints on all fronts, but as a result we don't get much depth with respect to character development. I needed more time with Cullen, and the prophet, and Andover, and Swech, and Desh, and everyone else, but then the book would probably be triple the size (which I would be okay with, FYI).

As I mentioned above, Moore really brought his horror game to this book. Whether it be strange mystic islands that forbid violence from taking place in a very creepy way, or the dark and claustrophobic passages under mounds in the Blasted Lands that are full of strange deadly creatures, Moore succeeds in making you feel unsettled and uncomfortable, unwilling but desperate to see what horrors come next.

The only other thing I want to mention is the same issue I brought up in the first and second books - City of Wonders finishes immediately after a cataclysmic event that answers precious few questions while asking even more. These cataclysms that are used to end each book have all been so impressive (especially in this book - Old Canhoon truly earned it's title as the City of Wonders), but I'm really missing those come down chapters, those few pages where the characters can pause for a moment, reflect, and mentally prepare themselves for what comes next.

All that said, City of Wonders is a book that kept me reading long into the night, and has stayed with me days after I've finished. I've gone back and re-read the ending a few times just to make sure I caught everything, because that ending was so big with so much going on that I'm sure I've missed key hints and clues about what's going to happen next. I have so much anticipation for the The Silent Army, I need to read it right now!

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