I definitely recommend the blighted city to fantasy fans looking for an engaging mix of strong worldbuilding, excellent characters, and solid plotting.
The Blighted City
by scott kaelen
To challenge the gods is to invite their wrath. So it is written of Lachyla, the Blighted City, in the Codex of the Ages. But who reads codices? And who really believes the tall stories of the Taleweavers?
Dagra does. If it’s a story about the gods – even a dead god – he believes every word. When his sellsword team is offered a contract to cross the Deadlands and find a burial jewel in the crypts of the Blighted City, Dagra wants no part of it. His companions are undaunted by the legend; to them, the blurred divide between the living and the dead is superstitious nonsense. Completing the contract would earn their guild’s failing reputation a much-needed boost and secure them the bounty of a lifetime. They’re going, with or without him. Torn between the convictions of his beliefs and the importance of his friendships, Dagra reluctantly journeys into the godless region in search of the fabled city. But the Deadlands are only the first challenge.
The sellswords uncover an age-old deception when they learn that Lachyla’s foul seed is much darker than its legend, that its truth must forever remain untold or risk plunging humanity into an eternal nightmare. Snagged on the barbs of the blight, Dagra faces the toughest choice of his life … and of his death.
The Blighted City is of those books I had recommended to me by friends and had in my To Be Read pile for a while. It just got lost in the shuffle of a lot of books hitting me at the same time for review. When the audiobook came out, I was offered a copy to review and decided now was a good time to see if the recommendations panned out.
I’m happy to say they were. In a crowded marketplace of fetch quests and chosen one narratives, this one takes some of those tropes and turns them right on their head, leading to an exciting romp through to true danger.
A lot of indie and small press books you read nowadays have world-building as deep as a kiddie pool. The backstory might be mentioned, but a lot of time it’s forgotten by the next page. Not so with Blighted City, since the backstory is front and center in the narrative. It’s well thought out and introduced very organically. You really get the feeling you are right there in the story, running for your life with the blighted right on your heels.
The characters are so well written. The three main characters, Jalis, Dagra, and Orik get so much attention. Their lives are slowly spun out before us, and you really get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses, which they all have. Their relationships, aspirations, and motivations play out right on the page, giving them the feel of real people.
The secondary characters are a mixed bag, but in a good way, having a lot of variety in their various personalities. The book has unconventional antagonists, but I can’t go into more detail without spoiling things. They get a lot of attention too as well, so they have as realistic motivations as the protagonists.
The narration is excellently handled by Todd Menesses. He has a fantastic narrative voice with outstanding pacing, so you never feel he falls into a monotonous rut. He does an excellent job bringing the various characters to their own unique life, using a variety of tones and accents to differentiate them. His voice just draws you right into the story, and he is one of my favorite narrators working today,
I do go through a lot of books and am always on the look for new series. This is definitely a good way to keep my attention for future installments. Is it perfect? No, because while it does have a good premise and good execution, it does have some scenes and plot lines that could use some paring down, in my opinion. While not a deal-breaker by any stretch, the hidden village plotline seemed a bit more than the story needed.
That being said, it shouldn’t scare anyone away from trying this book out, and who knows, you might think that’s a strength. I definitely recommend this book to fantasy fans looking for an engaging mix of strong worldbuilding, excellent characters, and solid plotting. I am looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.
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I have literally been a fan of fantasy/magic my whole life, with some of the earliest memories I have being my mother stories of brujas and spirits in the town in Puerto Rico where she was born. What really flipped the fantasy switch on full, though, was discovering a battered copy of the Sword of Shannara that cost me 25 cents at the local used book store when I was 11.
Its been a long journey since that day almost 40 years ago, and thousands of books later, here we are. Living with my wife, our two non-adult kids, four cats and a vicious attack beast Chihuahua about an hour south of Seattle, I’m glad to be able to share my love of fantasy and science fiction, especially Indie and small press, with anyone who’s interested.