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The Golden City (The Golden City #1)

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  828 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
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, Ori
Paperback, 373 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Roc
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Khanh (the Grinch)
This book is tagged with the "fantasy" genre, but while there are elements of magic and mythological creatures within it, this barely qualifies as a fantasy book. It is set in an alternate version of Portugal, and while well-described enough, the setting is just there, there is nothing about the place that blends into the story or adds anything special to it. It is nothing more than a turn-of-the-century, plodding investigative mystery, where the characters just happen to be sea creatures, selki ...more
Isa Lavinia

I was so excited about this book! An alternate version of 1902 Portugal! Mermaids! Selkies (a bit confusing, that, Portugal isn't exactly known for its seal population... but it's fantasy!)! Spies! Romance!

It was shaping up to be one of those books I devour in less than a day!
But it took me over a week to finish this book...

Anyone who knows anything about Portuguese history, or Portuguese society at the beginning of the 20th century, or anyone who has read anything about the mythology present
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

UPDATED: Author guest post and US/CANADA GIVEAWAY (Ends July 14, 2014)

The Golden City is a book that may take a bit of patience to get into, but it ends up being well worth the time once the story gets going. It also stands out for being one of the more unique novels I’ve read this year, with its one-of-a-kind setting in an alternate Portugal around the turn of the 20th century and
Tabitha (Pabkins)
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 e ...more
May 31, 2015 Hallie rated it liked it
ETA a link to this review, which points out the *numerous* instances of getting the Portugal setting wrong.

There wasn't a lot that I could pinpoint as "wrong" with this, but there wasn't anything at all that really grabbed me either. I didn't much care for the characters, didn't feel the setting (an alternate Portugal, in the very early 1900s) lived up to the potential it offered for unique and interesting, and the supernatural beings were just kind of -- there -- when they should have been amaz
Aug 31, 2014 Melliane rated it it was amazing

Mon avis en Français

My English review

I did not know about the novel, but after seeing the cover of the second volume on a few blogs, I was curious to discover this story. The volume is part of the ROC Fantasy collection and it’s true that I wondered what it meant. Yes, because if we read carefully the synopsis, the story is more reminiscent of the urban fantasy genre than fantasy’s. And finally, I think I rather put novel in this first part. But the story takes place in the 1900s and featur
Beth Cato
Oct 21, 2013 Beth Cato rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, historical, 2013
I received a copy of this book from the author. My review states my unbiased reaction.

The Golden City is the sort of book that would make me go, "OOOH! WANT!" It hits on several of my sweet spots: historical fiction, a unique setting (1902 Portugal), magic, and selkies. The latter is huge for me. I love selkies and am delighted when I find shorts stories and novels that utilize them well. (For those who aren't familiar with selkies, they are fairy creatures of sea who can slip off their pelt to
Eleanor With Cats
Aug 06, 2013 Eleanor With Cats rated it it was amazing
Loved it! I've liked J. Kathleen Cheney's fiction online, so I'm really happy she has a novel. And with a splendoriffic cover! This book actually distracted me from a five and a half book Seanan McGuire spree (I couldn't go back to book six until I'd finished this one) so it's definitely got some good pacing and attention-snaring powers. Heck, it even beat out the new Richard Kadrey novel, which considering the pacing and craziness in the Sandman Slim series is a pretty decent achievment.

Inês Montenegro
Feb 23, 2014 Inês Montenegro rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasia, romance
Writing: It is ok, nothing to say, either good or bad, about this one. It is entertaining.
Characters: Cliché and one dimensional. It would be wise to give them more consistency and development on the next volume.
Plot: Basic and short. There are way too many pages in this book for the plot it has. Perhaps a novelette would do just fine.
Worldbuilding: This was the factor which brought my attention to this book. Fantasy-Portugal and sirens? I’m in! Unfortunately, it is a disappointment. The Portug
Jun 08, 2015 Allison rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Maybe I was just in the perfect mood for lighter historical/urban fantasy??? because I enjoyed this quite a bit. I get how it could be slow for some people, but I was in the mood to meander a bit. I love Portuguese history but I'm not from Portugal, nor by any means am I an expert, so I was able to enjoy without being nit-picky. Just a good, fun read with some unresolved sexual tension (not going to lie, that's what made me order the second book right after finishing this one). Love that it's pa ...more
Jana Brown
This is one of those books that had phenomenal potential which was totally unrealized.

The set up is intriguing, putting us in 1902 in Portugal, which is not a set up we see often. It's history with fantastical elements including seers, some magic and sea folk including mermaids and selkies. The first chapter sets up a powerful murder mystery and from there it plods and plods and plods until I got so frustrated I skipped to the end, confirmed that it ended the way I thought it would and took it b
Jul 14, 2015 Kammie rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book was every thing I thought it would be. Loved it!
Catherine Schaff-Stump
Nov 01, 2013 Catherine Schaff-Stump rated it it was amazing
First of all, I have to tell you...when you get to the end of this book, insider knowledge tells me that there will be a second book. And you need to know that, because when you do get to the end of this book, it will go hard for you if you don't know that.


But I am ahead of myself. One of the advantages of being a cuspy writer such as myself is that you get to know other writers. Eventually, those writers get published, and those excellent writers are willing to send you copies of their excel
Aug 24, 2013 VMom rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I got this as a free book from Goodreads giveaways. I wasn't sure what to expect, having never read any of Cheney's work before.

This is a alternate-history mystery fantasy set in 1905 Portugal which has been split into two principalities. The main character, Oriana Paredes, is a siren passing as a human in the The Golden City, which is closed to sirens because the ruling Prince believes in a prophecy that he would one day be killed by one. She is a low-level spy gathering any informat
There seem like there are a lot of things I pick on in this book, and there are. It’s not perfect. It’s a far stretch from it. However, it is unique. It is memorable. I absolutely devoured The Golden City in two days flat because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The plot is fairly standard. The characters have their own set of positives and negatives, but it’s the world, the setting, the cultures and the incredible amount of details and unique takes on old tropes really makes this book shine. ...more
Scott Taylor
Aug 02, 2013 Scott Taylor rated it it was amazing
I read this book over the course of two days because I honestly had a hard time putting it down. The detail with which Ms. Cheney is able to capture her setting is extraordinary, and the characters are deep and thoughtful.

This is a page turner, and I highly encourage readers to give it a shot as you will not be disappointed.
Jul 24, 2015 Zarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this book in a GR giveaway.

3.5. This is one of those circumstances in which I really wish GR actually allowed half stars. I have to decide if I'm gonna round up or down. The book is better than others I've given 3 stars to, but I didn't like it 4 stars worth...

Anyhow, I'm pretty 'meh' about The Golden City. I liked the writing. The editing was fine. Finding it set in Portugal was a change from the regular US/UK based fiction one normally finds (though I've seen others comment it
Arianne "Tex" Thompson
May 13, 2015 Arianne "Tex" Thompson rated it it was amazing
I'm sorry, I can't. I don't have any clever hook to put here. I just absolutely love this book.

More specifically, I love Oriana.

Most-specifically, I did not realize until now how monstrously thirsty I was to see a heroine – hell, a character of any gender – who is what I can only call "dauntlessly plain." Like, she's perfectly intelligent, but not a genius. She's not "feisty". She's not snarky, or witty, or gorgeous-but-doesn't-know-it. She's not even fearless – and with good reason, because the
Set in a convincing alternate-history world, the Golden City of Kathleen Cheney’s novel offers a wealth of history and politics and a convincing society of humanity and seafolk. Of course, the twain should never meet, each banished from the other’s lands. But there are always spies.

There’s twisted magic too in this fascinating novel, and there’s a pleasing mix of romance, mystery, suspense and curiosity. The tale flows swift and smooth as the tide, and the reader’s soon caught up in plot and cou
Jul 19, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok
I completely agree with the lower starred reviews here. What bothered me the most is how long it took for this mystery to come unraveled, as if the author really didn't plan it out prior to writing. To agree further with other reviews, I totally felt disconnected from any real emotion in this book. I was even hoping that the brewing romance might be a redeemable quality, but was disappointed at the lack of emotion at the end. It's goodbye for God's sake! You have broken every other rule anyways, ...more
Nov 18, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I finished The Golden City in just over 24 hours, and the characters kept coming to mind after I closed the book -- both good signs. If Goodreads did half stars I'd give 4.5.

The book's greatest strengths are the characters and the setting. The protagonists have backstories worthy of prequels and believable motivation. They tend to be reserved, self-disciplined, and honorable. Writing about non-humans and people with extraordinary talents tempts a lot of writers into rabbit trails, but it was han
Renee Babcock
Nov 14, 2013 Renee Babcock rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
First a disclaimer: I know Jeannette and she sent me an early copy of the book as a gift. But my thoughts are honest, if brief. I really liked this book. My rating is more of a 4.5 than a straight 4. If you like historical fantasy, books of manners, I think you'll like this book. The writers I was reminded of while reading this book are Kage Baker and Mary Robinette Kowal. I think this book fits in very well with the books of those two fine writers and if you lime those writers, I highly recomen ...more
Jan 04, 2014 Anne rated it really liked it
The first thing I have to say about The Golden City is superficial, but I have to get it out of the way. I LOVE the cover. And I usually hate covers with beautiful mysterious women on front, but this works. Ya know? But on to the important part, the story.

Oriana is a siren, or sireia, in an alternate 1902 Portugal. Sirens, and other sea creatures, are banned from the country by its ruler, a prince who was prophesied to die by a creature from the sea. Pretending to be a human, Oriana is also a sp
Dec 15, 2013 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book from one of the Goodreads Giveaway contests. I didn't know what to expect from the work because I have not before read any of J. Kathleen Cheney's books before.

The book itself is a sort of fantasy-historical mystery book set in the early 1900's of Portugal. The culture has an early Edwardian feel to it, but the society has been split into two opposing factions: one of the humans, and the other of water creatures (not going to give it away!). The main character, Oriana Pared
Danny Adams
Jan 29, 2014 Danny Adams rated it it was amazing
This took me quite a long while to read--not because it was bad, but because I had so much other stuff going on both good and ill. If I had liked it less I would've just set it aside for a quieter time, but as it was I still wanted to make it through, even if it was only a page or two at a time.

Obviously the story has a fantasy background - an early 20th century alternate Portugal - but when you get right down to it, this is a character-driven story, and the interactions between them are just as
Jessica Surgett
Jul 12, 2015 Jessica Surgett rated it it was amazing
**I received this book for free from the author via a Goodreads giveaway**

Aaaahh! I need the next one NOW!!

The book is a little confusing at first, because we are thrust into this unusual world without much explanation, but everything slowly begins to click into place... And then- BOOM!
It's awesome. I don't really know how else to describe it. There is so much detail that the world quickly begins to take shape and you get a very good picture of these people's lives- everyday societal situations
Jun 14, 2014 Ariella rated it it was amazing
As a judge for the Prism Awards, I was assigned J. Kathleen Cheney's The Golden City. Lucky me! I loved Cheney's creative world building, well-drawn characters, and original writing. An unexpected scientific twist woven into the magic earned The Golden City a place on my Keeper shelf. I look forward to reading more books by J. Kathleen Cheney.
Aug 28, 2013 Chasty rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-read
First and foremost you just have to read this book. I couldn't put it down.. I just love Oriana. I love the fact that Cheney drops you hints as to what she is before you find out. I will foreworn you the ending will break your heart... I understand that not all stories have a happing ending and to me this is what makes the story stand out. Cheney didn't fall in the glitch of most writers caving in and making sure the story had a happy ending. This book deserves so much more than 5 stars. I reall ...more
Aug 06, 2014 Marie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Marie by: Abigail
Shelves: sff
This took me a while to get into, but once it hooked me I really enjoyed it. Fun, fast-paced, with a reasonably engaging mystery and characters who legitimately seemed attracted to each other. Onward to the sequel, where maybe they'll actually kiss!
Diana Francis
Jul 30, 2014 Diana Francis rated it it was amazing
Loved the history, loved the characters, am going to dive into the sequel ASAP.
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Feb 12, 2015 09:23AM  
  • Quintessence
  • Delia's Shadow (Delia Martin, #1)
  • Divided against Yourselves
  • The Midnight Queen (Noctis Magicae, #1)
  • The House of the Four Winds (One Dozen Daughters, #1)
  • Elisha Barber (The Dark Apostle, #1)
  • Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx, #1)
  • Hell Bent (Broken Magic, #1)
  • Midnight Never Come (Onyx Court, #1)
  • The Bloodbound (Bloodbound, #1)
  • Disenchanted & Co. (Disenchanted & Co., #1)
  • The Thorn of Dentonhill (Maradaine, #1)
  • Audrey's Guide to Black Magic (Audrey's Guides, #2)
  • False Covenant (Widdershins Adventures, #2)
  • Demon Inhibitions (Caitlin Diggs #3)
  • The Silvered
  • The Alhambra Decree (Flower from Castile Trilogy, #1)
  • Touch of Fate
J. Kathleen Cheney is nothing if not versatile in her story telling. But, weaving through her work is a common thread, that of the improbable heroine. From worlds set in humanity’s distant post-apocalyptic future to alternate worlds of today or of the near past, Kathleen’s heroines include a siren who with help from a gentleman of the city must stop a regicidal plot, the neglected daughter of an a ...more
More about J. Kathleen Cheney...

Other Books in the Series

The Golden City (4 books)
  • The Seat of Magic (The Golden City, #2)
  • The Shores of Spain (The Golden City, #3)
  • The Seer's Choice (The Golden City)

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