Tuesday 22 March 2022

Book Review: The City of Dusk by Tara Sim

Pros: lots of intrigue, interesting fleshed out characters with realistic motivations, multiple forms of magic, good fight scenes


The city of Nexus sits at the crossroads of the realms of the four gods. Since the Sealing 500 years ago they’ve been cut off from the other realms and their world is slowly dying because of it. The four houses are descendants of liaisons between past royals and the gods, and use their magic to help the people as they vie for the throne. Two of the house heirs want to unseal the pathways to save their realm, while the other 2 want political power and the ability to master their gods’ magic. Meanwhile, conjurors, practitioners of forbidden demon magic, have started creating havoc in the city. Godsnight is approaching, when the planets align and with it the heirs’ best hope of breaking the sealing. But what can four humans achieve when the gods have other plans?

There’s a lot going on in this book and you’ll spend the first few chapters trying to get a handle on the heirs, their houses, their various forms of magic, the political intrigues everyone is involved in and the characters various personal goals and problems. There is a handy guide at the start of the book that gives the house name, their god, the family members, and form of magic. Refer to it often until you get to know who’s who.

The characters were all fully fleshed out with varied motivations. Things rarely went in directions I expected and it was a delight seeing what each one would do next. Two of the heirs had overbearing parents and trouble mastering their magic. The other two had easy mastery but other problems to deal with. It was fun watching the various sibling relationships as well, some loving and others confrontational. The different family units felt realistic, including the dysfunctional ones.

The magic was cool. My favourite power was House Vakara’s necromancy, but seeing the light and shadow magics was fun. You don’t see as much of the elemental magic, given Angelica’s difficulties, though you do see others wield the power. The conjuration circles and learning how demon magic worked in this world was also interesting.

The worldbuilding was well done. In addition to the realms and magic, the principle world has several cultures, all represented in Nexus.

The plot is very complex and when the revelations started happening at the end I’d figured out a few twists while others were a complete surprise. There are some great battles, including a massive, multi-chapter one at the end.

If you like dark fantasy with complex characters and multiple plot threads, interesting magic with great worldbuilding, then give this a go. Just be aware that it’s the first of a series and the ending will leave you wanting more.

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