Starfire's Reviews > The Hidden City

The Hidden City by Michelle West
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Apr 16, 10

bookshelves: 9-10
Recommended to Starfire by: Orannia
Recommended for: Anyone who liked the Sun Sword set
Read from April 01 to 15, 2010

Back when I used to post my book reviews on my LJ, whenever I reviewed a book by Michelle West (regardless of the name she was writing under at the time - West, Sagara, or Sagara West), I'd preface the review with a warning that this was my absolute favourite fantasy author *EVER* so the reader could take it as read that I'd love the book, and that any review that followed would be glowingly positive because... well... that's just how things are.

I wasn't *quite* sure if that would still be the case with The Hidden City, because although I loved the Sun Sword books with a passion, Jewel Markess ATerafin was never my favourite character... that honour was split somewhere between Kallandras and Avandar, with a few of the supporting characters (e.g. Auralis and Kiriel, and *of course* Isladar) coming in not far behind. Y'know - the broken, morally grey, interesting ones who still manage to be supremely competent despite being completely and utterly messed up psychologically. Jewel always seemed too... balanced and certain of herself, even when she was doubting herself, and allround GOOD, to push my either my broken-but-competent or competent-controlled-and-amoral buttons. And because of that, she was often "just another heroine" to me and I focussed on the other characters who interested me more.

I'm happy to say though, that despite this first House War series book revolving around Jewel as the central protagonist, I still really like most of the book, and I thoroughly LOVED the last 200 pages or so of it. Jewel as the 10-year old she is in this book is very much the same as Jewel as the 30-something she is in the Sun Sword set, but I can live with that: she struck me as a very young 30, and here, she strikes me as a very old 10, so the voice-consistency works for me...

Although Hidden City doesn't have the cast of thousands than the Sun Sword set had, the supporting characters it does have are, for the most part, awesome; with several of them feeling as though they're offering me foreshadows of characters I know I'm going to meet later in the Sun Sword set (or at least, Jewel's interactions and dynamics with them offer those foreshadows). For example, in Rath, and Jewel's interactions with him, I see foreshadows/echoes of her dynamics with Avandar; and in Patris AMatie, I see distinct echoes of Isladar.

Not surprising, given his moral greyness, I loved Rath as a character. But he was far from the only highlight for me. My two other favourites were the painfully broken Duster (whom I remember meeting as one of Jewel's memories, and in whom I see echoes of the Kiriel who will come later); and the other is a character who never actually appears in person, but nevertheless informs a huge amount of who Jewel is and why she becomes the person she is, so I feel as though I know her as well as I know Jewel herself: her twisted, angry, resentful, and-yet-somehow-still-loving Oma (either Aunt or Grandmother - I wasn't clear, but I also didn't find the distinction really mattered). All of these characters are so wonderfully complex and *real* in their flaws and strengths that their depth quite simply takes my breath away at times.

Then again, Michelle West's strengths, for me, have always been in the richness and the complexity of her characters - that, and her ability to wield small, well-selected groups of words so skillfully that her phrases occasionally leave me stunned, or tearing up, or aching, and always wishing I had a tenth of her writing talent.

Contrasted against the characterisation, I found the actual plot of Hidden City pales. That said, however, I like that I can see how events that are going to happen in the Hunter & Sun Sword sets are being set up in this book, but it's a long, slow setting up, and most of the plot that's internal to this book, for me, seemed to happen in the last couple of hundred pages of it. Without wanting to create major spoilers, the point at which Jewel makes it clear she's willing to do what's necessary to help Duster achieve what the latter has been living for ever since the two of them met is the turning point of this book for me. That's the point it changes from a book I really liked just because it allowed me to be back in the world of Averalaan and the Twin Kings again , with characters I loved to spend time with, into a story that I couldn't put down and resented anyone or anything that took me away from it till I found out how it ended.

Had the first part of the book been as compelling and complex and demanding on my emotions as those last 200 pages, I would have given the book a 10/10 and complained that the scale didn't go high enough. As it is, I'm still giving it a 9/10 with a note that I'm *really* glad the next book (City of Night) became available from the library the day before I finished this instalment. I'm just not sure how I'm going to cope when I finish that one and then have to wait another year or so before House Name (Book 3) comes out!
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Reading Progress

04/09/2010 page 100
16.03% "Just loving being back on the world of Averalaan - Michelle West's writing is as strong as ever!"
04/09/2010 page 175
28.04% "Jewel was never my favourite character in the Sun Sword books, but I'm really enjoying reading about her early years here"
04/09/2010 page 287
45.99% "It's really interesting watching Jewel's interactions with Rath, and seeing in them the seeds of what will become her dynamics with Avandar"
04/11/2010 page 523
83.81% "Wow - this is REALLY making me want to re-read the Sun Sword set. The conversations between Rath and Sigurne are just incredible"

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by orannia (new)

orannia Oh, I look forward to hearing what you think!


message 2: by orannia (new)

orannia I'm really glad you enjoyed it :)


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