For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores….
When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana’s heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch her only friend die.
Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.
Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone….
In The Golden City J. Kathleen Cheney paints a vivid alternate Portugal in the early 1900s. Seeing as I know nothing of Portugal’s history I found the reading experience quite interesting. I completely attribute this to the fact that I wasn’t caught up with historical details of places and names that I’ve encountered in so many other historical fiction novels. This totally allowed me to simply enjoy the feel of world, which a time period that felt familiar but unique. I loved how there was the expected treatment of women as the lesser more delicate sex in human society and yet roles for women seemed to be completely opposite when described for the sereia race, and again was different for selkies.
Oriana is a sereia, commonly known as a siren. I know when I say siren you want to picture a mermaid – I know that is what I pictured but is definitely not the case. She is living in the city acting as a spy for her people, she has made her way into the aristocratic circles as a higher caste of servant so that whenever she happens to hear information that might effect or benefit her people she can relay this information back to them. Oddly enough while that is her occupation she doesn’t spend much time in the book doing any spying because of the kidnapping and death of her employer that takes place as the start of the book. Instead she spends her time investigating the death of her friend, one of the only people who knew what she really is.
During the course of her investigating she is sought after as a witness by a seer named Duilio Ferriera who also has seafolk heritage, though he is a half selkie (seals who can shed their skin and become human) not a sereia. He has always suspected that she was not human and confronts her about it. They end up making quite the investigative team.
I have to admit that while I seriously enjoyed The Golden City, things moved very slowly. Personally, I didn’t mind this because I was enjoying the world, atmosphere and build of the characters personalities. But I could definitely see the pace being an issue for other readers. I think part of what caused the slow build was because it was a mystery but with little to no action. Given that essence of a mystery novel mashed with fantasy and smidge of not quite romance thrown in, it only had the occasional bit of action thrown in to spice things up from time to time. I enjoyed it this way because the experience for me was more about the mystery and getting to know these two unique characters.
If you’re into judging books by their covers, this one was a great one but possibly a bit misleading only in that I think the cover fits the trend of beautiful girls in pretty dresses that I see frequently in fantasy books that are heavier on the romance side. Cover taste is definitely a very personal thing but also genre specific. I think most avid readers can spot a book in their preferred genres by glancing at the cover. I definitely found this cover appealing because it is gorgeous, and it does represent the book well in most aspects, it was only my learned stereotype that made me categorize it before I started reading. In a way that could work both for it and against it when readers go to pick it up. Hopefully, it will just work for it. Crosses fingers because I really want to see this series published to completion. So don’t be fooled, while there was definitely romantic feelings developing on either end of the main characters Oriana and Duilio, romance was not the main aspect of this book. In fact, I was very pleased that it wasn’t. Instead it was simply a side plot that was done very well. Hey, a slow build for me on relationships always works. I do anticipate we will see the relationship progress much more in the coming books.
Overall, The Golden City was a very solid fantasy debut. If you enjoy water based fantasy species then this is definitely one you will want to pick up. It was such a refreshing take on sirens and selkies that I seriously look forward to learning more about this world and I can’t wait to see more of Oriana and Duilio!
Read the author’s Guest Post: The Things the Writer Isn’t Telling You (Even When We Want To)
The Golden City (The Golden City #1)
• This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Please note that this post also contains affiliate links. view our full Blog Policy