Series: Caeli-Amur #1
Published by Tor Books on April 15, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
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Caeli-Amur: an ancient city perched on white cliffs overlooking the sea; a city ruled by three Houses, fighting internecine wars; a city which harbours ancient technology and hidden mysteries. But things are changing in Caeli-Amur. Ancient minotaurs arrive for the traditional Festival of the Sun. The slightly built New-Men bring their technology from their homeland. Wastelanders stream into the city hideously changed by the chemical streams to the north. Strikes break out in the factory district.
In a hideout beneath the city, a small group of seditionists debate ways to overthrow the Houses. How can they rouse the citizens of the city? Should they begin a campaign of terror? Is there a way to uncover the thaumaturgical knowledge that the Houses guard so jealously? As the Houses scramble to maintain their rule, it becomes clear that things will change forever in Caeli-Amur.
Unwrapped Sky has an amazingly realized fantasy world both beautiful and harsh. The city of Caeli-Amur is a place where thaumaturgical magic and ancient technology are melded together in such a way I haven’t seen before. The citizens are ruled by three Houses that hold ultimate power in the city. If you do not work for one of these Houses then you are likely to be used up and trampled beneath their maneuvering.
Let’s start a revolution
The city has quite a few interesting fantasy races and has a unique yet familiar feel to it. But at its heart, it is a city in turmoil. The general populace are unhappy with the treatment they get from the Houses and how the bulk of thaumaturgical knowledge is hoarded by the Houses. Rather than helping protect the people they employ, by granting them techniques and skills to aid them, the workers are left to flounder risking their lives and sanity using the magic necessary to do their jobs. Rather like working on a radioactive generator without a protective suit. This eventually warps the people’s bodies and minds. That isn’t even the worst the Houses are capable of, they will kill people indiscriminately and have completely enslaved a few other non human races. As Unwrapped Sky is told mostly from 3 points of view we get to see a little bit of everything.
Kata: a philosopher assassin who has crawled her way out of the streets is indebted to House Technis for all that she has. She must commit an act that breaks her heart and also goes undercover to expose a seditionist group that is hiding in the city.
Boris: a House agent who has spent practically his whole life working for House Technis and is reviled by his former friends and even his own daughter. He sympathizes with the plight of the everyday man but ultimately what is he willing to do about it?
Max: A young seditionist (revolutionary) who is also a thaumaturgist that is a member of a the seditionist group hiding within the city. He has big aspirations to free people from the rule of the Houses and believes this can be accomplished through thaumaturgy.
There were points while reading I found myself so captivated and yet I would also feel so disconnected from what I was reading. I really believed this was because of the characters themselves. While I loved the story and found the world building fascinating there simply wasn’t a character that I actually liked. By the time I was 40% into the book I realized I didn’t much care for any of the main characters. Where was the sympathetic character that I could latch on to? While all of them had some tragedy in their past and had good qualities about them, they also had an equal number of things that made it hard to like them. Perhaps because we got to know each character so intimately with all of their fears, desires and overall motivations, that I ended up finding their personalities unpalatable. That in turn made my reading experience unusually slow because I found myself just not caring what happened to them as much as I should have. When I think about it – I support I can’t really say I didn’t like the character – because if I truly felt that way I would have stopped reading. But even though I wanted to be sympathetic to them I found myself not. Luckily I did find this changing toward the end of the novel and I believe I will be very interested in what happens to them.
No happy champagne bubbles for you
I have to admit despite not personally caring for the characters as much as I would have liked, I still really enjoyed the world. For me that is what this book was all about. Learning about this extraordinary city, magic and this worlds mythology. It is a world rife with disastrous magic and cultures that I would love to see more closely. The details and amount of depth that was went into allowed me to see the world itself as a character, which is something I look for in a really good fantasy. Now prepare yourself, there is a lot of bleakness and sad realities to this world that make it a much more somber read than I normally enjoy. But I definitely appreciated how rich and real the world building was. I definitely think based on the way things left off that the next book might take on a different tone which I anticipate seeing. I consider Unwrapped Sky to be one of those ‘thinker’ fantasies. It wasn’t asking me to love it, it wanted me to think about everything it was offering up. Why do people do the things they do, what would have happened if this or that were done differently, what can be done, and who is willing to do it? What would you do? What more can you have, will that one more fulfilled desire give you the happiness you want. That sort of thing. I don’t think of myself as a deep thinking reader. I’m in it for the pleasure of it and because I like to see new worlds – so on that point Unwrapped Sky delivers, not a thrilling roller coaster fantasy but a slow moving scenic train ride.
*gasp* This book was provided by the publisher! No worries though it’s an honest review and all opinions expressed are my own. Cover art displayed courtesy of the publisher. This post might also contain affiliate links. To view my full Blog Policy, click here.