I received a free ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
I like the cover, it has a classic sci-fi feel, and matches the setting of the novel
With her indomitable style, New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder returns with an electric new fantasy series that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
‘It’s suicide, Shyla. You’re the prize they want.’
Through her courage and tenacity, Shyla Sun-Kissed has awoken the power of The Eyes of Tamburah. But this feat only marks the beginning of the challenges that the magical order, the Invisible Sword, faces to free the underground city of Zirdai.
Though they have allies among the monks and splinter cells inside the city, Shyla knows the Invisible Sword doesn’t have the strength to win. With the group fracturing due to the strain of losses from their latest ordeal, thinly veiled suspicions and endless disagreements, it’s up to Shyla to forge a new united order.
When both the draconian Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess learn of Shyla’s new powers, life becomes even more complicated as they will stop at nothing to capture Shyla and take the magic of The Eyes for themselves. Hunted at every turn and unable to hide, Shyla and the Invisible Sword must use every resource at their command – and unearth new ones – in their race to save the city from destruction. But their enemies always seem to be one step ahead. And the cost to win the battle may be more than Shyla would ever be willing to pay…
I didn’t realise this was the second book in a series when I requested it, and I prefer to read series in order. That being said, I have read books out of order before and followed and appreciated the plot, so I think my opinion on this book is still valid. I did not enjoy The City of Zirdai overall. There were parts of the book I enjoyed, but I think the book was conceived far more as book two in a series, than as a story in its own right.
The characters in this novel often seemed poorly motivated. The society of the Invisible Sword could have been a high point of the book—I’m a big fan of the found family trope and I think the Invisible Sword could have been that. However, perhaps because I didn’t know the characters already, I found their interactions to be surface level and unrealistic.
Shyla was not an interesting main character, and I thought her motivations were usually weak. Her relationships never rang true, and her emotional struggles were difficult to empathise with. The magic and spiritual system of the world was hazy and at times, overly convenient, again undermining the tension of the book and ability for the plot to matter.
Jayden was a well-written character, and I thought the friction he had with Shyla was believable and interesting. I also liked his interactions with Mojag, and thought their interactions were heart-warming. Rendor’s character arc was also interesting, and I wish he and Jayden had had more to do with the plot.
Some of the social issues covered in the book could have been interesting and thought provoking, done correctly, but instead the guards and priests that served as supporting antagonists never seemed believable as real people. The priestess and the prince likewise weren’t fleshed out very much in this novel, and as I have not read book one, you may struggle to see them as compelling antagonists. This made the abuses of power, bias towards the ‘sun kissed’ (the issue of having what seems to be a blond girl get discriminated against for her hair colour is something I don’t even want to get into) and struggles to form a functioning government instead seem like flimsy reasons to progress the plot.
There were quite a few twists that were genuinely unexpected towards the end of the book, but as I had no real investment in the characters or seeing their goals met, I didn’t really care. The book was slow at times, and even when the plot was fast-paced, I found myself getting bored and having to struggle to want to continue. I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed this book more had I read book one, but judged on its own merits, I do not think The City of Zirdai holds up.
If you are interested in reading Maria V Snyder’s work, I very much enjoyed her Study novels, and her Healer series was also one I enjoyed. If you read The Eyes of Tamburah and enjoyed it, chances are you’ll appreciate learning what happens to the characters in The City of Zirdai.
This book releases on the 21st June, I’ll post a reminder on the blog then if you want to pick it up.