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Amberlough

(The Amberlough Dossier #1)

by
3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,349 ratings  ·  879 reviews
Le Carré meets Cabaret in this debut spy thriller as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup

Welcome to Amberlough City, the illustrious but corrupt cosmopolitan beacon of Gedda. The radical One State Party—nicknamed the Ospies—is gaining popular support to unite Gedda's four municipal governments under an ironcl
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Hardcover, 400 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Tor Books
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,349 ratings  ·  879 reviews


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Elle (ellexamines)
This was like watching a slow-motion train wreck, and I loved it.

Amberlough follows a city set in a world paralleling 1920s counterculture as it slowly falls under the power of a fascist sect. But rather than focusing on the power plays of that fascist movement, this novel goes a lot more in-depth; it focuses on just three of the characters affected by the new regime, and how they react to the disappearances, the burgeoning fear.

And I think this is the narrative choice that makes the whole book
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Philip
Jun 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
1.5ish stars.

I understand why authors choose to set their stories in alternate worlds with invented names and places. It makes their stories seem universal, like they could take place anywhere, at any time. However, this so obviously parallels the Weimar Republic that I couldn't think of it as being anything else. All of the confusing info dumps of cities and events could have been avoided by just using the word Nazi. I have a hard time with the branding of a book as fantasy when it takes place
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Samantha
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wasn’t sure I’d be into this at first (and I still got a bit lost with some of the political maneuvering at times) but the characters quickly pulled me in. That, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s audiobook performance is superb. The “noirpunk” gay spy cabaret story I didn’t know I needed.
Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
Wow, what a read. I will have a whole video up on Monday (fingers crossed) but look for this release on Tuesday, the 7th! It is tense, sexy, complex, and definitely a super intriguing read.
Althea Ann
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read for book club.

An extremely impressive debut novel! Imagine if Ellen Kushner's 'Riverside' novels were set in an analogue of 1920's Germany?

I do think that all fans of Kushner's 'Swordspoint' &c. will love this book. It also does a great job of introducing its world and characters without unnecessarily driving home the parallels between the fantasy setting and that of the Weimar Republic and the impending rise of fascism. It's not a 1:1 correspondence; there are also elements of the Balkans
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Optimist ♰King's Wench♰
Stunning



True story. I chose this book because the blurb sounded like MMF with espionage and what's better than that? It is not MMF, just so you know. I think Amberlough should be categorized as gay lit which typically connotes to me a lack of romance. It's true, Amberlough doesn't focus on a romantic plotline per se, but the relationship between Cyril and Aristide is one of the most heartbreakingly romantic and timeless ones I've ever read. They're rarely together but tethered regardless of time
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Seth Dickinson
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascism's come to glittering cosmopolitan Amberlough, and as the One State Party looms over the city of long good nights, all the dancers and smugglers and politicians face a choice: bargain to survive, or fight and die?

Amberlough is a tryst between John le Carre's grey-coated spies and Cabaret's end-of-an-era seedy delights: the whole city's going to have one drink too many, because it doesn't want to go to sleep and face the jackboots tomorrow. Read this book if you love smugglers, strippers,
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Lindsay
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting study in ambiguous characters of the nightclub scene in an alternate world similar to 1930s Europe as the Nazis come to power.

Cyril DePaul is an intelligence operative working for the Amberlough government. One of his roles is to investigate smuggling, which is a bit unfortunate because his lover, Aristide Makricosta, has a side job as a local kingpin in the smuggling racket. Aristide's other job is as a stripper and performer at the Busy Bee nightclub where he's a local celebrity
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Bradley
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
If I'm being honest, this is more of a 3.5 for me, not having all that much to do as a Fantasy except with changed names and places hiding the fact this may as well be Casablanca. What? Nazis, spy work, sharp, sometimes witty, dialogue? Yep.

I also enjoyed (and sometimes didn't) the deep immersion in the acting scene. For me, it was best when it was scathing quips and a bit boring when it seemed to drag the slow burn of this plot to rather nowhere places.

The fact is, this novel sinks or swims on
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Rachel (Kalanadi)
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This had a slow beginning that took its time exploring the characters and building the plot. Then the second half hits and the world is on fire and it's beautiful and hurts. No happy ending. Can't wait for the sequel! ...more
BrokenTune
On the face of it, I should love this novel: spies, cabaret, a setting that is an alternative take on the Weimar Republic... What's not to love, right?

However, the book just isn't working for me. I've tried to read this several times, but just get lost in the endless names and descriptions that seem to lead nowhere.

This morning, I spent a good hour and a half trying one last time if there was a way to get into the story, but all I am left with is a hankering for some original1920s/30s literature
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Emily
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Fantastic! I have no idea where I heard about this book, but it was amazing. Think, "art-deco-era meets spy-thriller meets big-brother/1984." It's a fantasy book but no magic - set in a world that is could be ours, but isn't (corrupt elections, dirty government officials trying to make everyone conform to their moral standards, racism , etc.)

The book started out a bit confusing - a lot of names, geography and terms that are unfamiliar, but stick with it, it all comes together pretty quickly. By
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Mel
Feb 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
From the very beginning this book was a struggle for me. Places, names, parties, countries are dropped in every other sentence without any explanation whatsoever. Even whole paragraphs like this are not a rare thing:

“Be serious, DePaul. The Ospies want Amberlough knocked down—they think we’re impeding trade, sacrificing Gedda for the sake of state interest. Pinegrove and Moritz have already endorsed Acherby, and intelligence out of both capitals says they won’t stop there. They want to impeach J
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Book Riot Community
Even though this book isn’t coming out until next Winter, it needs to be on your “To Buy,” list ASAP! John Le Carre and Cabaret set in a secondary fantasy world, Donnelly’s debut novel is set in the decadent, whirlwind city of Amberlough, whose lifestyle of luxury and indulgence have fueled the fire of the One State Party (Ospies), a new radically conservative fascist faction on the rise, looking to pluck Amberlough’s sweetness away and reclaim the city for their nationalist vision. Cyril DePaul ...more
Nathan
I was blessed with the oppurtunity to do a Q & A with Lara Elena Donnelly. She talks the timeliness of the story and inspirations among other things. Check it out!

Booknest

Both timely and timeless. Wonderful yet heartbreaking. Completely fucking awesome. Oh, and debut of the year.

A nationalist fervor has empowered the One State Party though they still lack the votes to control Amberlough City. Cyril DePaul once enjoyed the spy game but is now a man who doesn't quite want to admit he may be broke
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Baba Yaga (Nomadic Reader)
4.5 stars

The more I think about this book, the more I struggle to believe it’s a debut novel.
Donnelly is an exceptionally talented author and does her best to make sure every single detail of her book is polished and carefully executed, to the point that I have a hard time understanding why this series isn’t more popular in the book community.

The world building is stunning. Amberlough is set in an alternate 1930s Germany that is, you guessed it, about to be taken over by an ultra-nationalist
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Acqua
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
...I have a lot of feelings.
This was painful. And fun, but mostly painful.

Amberlough is the first book in The Amberlough Dossier, and it has three main PoVs: Aristide, who is a smuggler and emcee at the Bee Cabaret, Cyril, his lover, who is a double agent and spying on him, and Cordelia, a stripper at the Bee.

The beginning isn't exactly easy to get into - there's a lot information about politics, because this novel is about the rise of a fascist government - but after I understood what was happe
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Phee
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
4.5 stars.

It has been such a terribly long time since I last fell so head over heels in love with a set of characters. Amberlough has taken me completely by surprise. It promised spy's, revolution, and a decadent era. On top of that I got espionage, steamy sex, sizzling romantic chemistry, dynamic characters, stage shows, thrilling action and political intrigue by the bucket load.

Amberlough is a fascinating book. At one time I would have devoured a book like this. But I savoured it and took my
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Emily
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
THIS. IS. SO FUN.

It feels strange to say that about a book that chronicles the rise of a fascist regime, but it's true.

In this we follow three characters--a spy, a smuggler, and a cabaret dancer--and all of them are deeply, deeply flawed. I can see how that could be off-putting to some readings, but personally I think Donnelly hits it out of the park.

Aristides, the smuggler
Ari is a performer at heart, despite his underground empire in which he runs drugs, guns, and secrets. He's vain, arroga
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vicky.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

Amberlough is an alternate vintage world with gender equality in which a gay spy has to protect his smuggler/cabaret performing lover while trying to stop a fascist group from taking over his country.

Read that sentence again.
I mean... THAT IS EXACTLY MY AESTHETIC OKAY.

Which is why I'm so disappointed. The writing is absolutely fantastic but in the first ten chapters the infodump is real. Names, places, conflicts, groups and more where constantly mentioned at an alarming rate.
If I hadn't
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Kitty G Books
DNF @ p 69.

Just couldn't get into this. I picked it up for a change of pace after a high Fantasy sword and sorcery title, and it just didn't seem to satisfy what I wanted. I'd heard good things about it and yet the way it was written felt a bit trite and too focused on US-inspired politics for my liking.
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Crini
I absolutely ADORED this book. Very close to a 5-star read!

While I'm usually not big on more political stories, this one totally got away with it because the characters are just the best (more of the "unlikable" and very flawed kind which made me love them all the more and OMG shipping it so hard, MY FEELS) and it's very character driven.

It's set in a fictional, historical world that was a bit confusing at first but that was SO easy to ignore because I was already in love with these characters f
...more
RG
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
1930s Europe, nazis, spys, deceit, ambiguity, sexuality. I guess this is what Donnelly had in mind when writing this book. Well written, slow plodding pace, a slow burn if you will but I felt it never got out of 3rd gear. Obviously not a historical account as this novel is a spy thriller/science fiction story, but very limited scifi. Its really just placed in a ficitional world because it wss easier to give the readers the authors viewpoint of what may have happened at that time. Not plot or cha ...more
Em Lost In Books
3.5 stars.
Teleseparatist
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
In a country in which Ospies - Nazis - are taking over, three characters are finding out just what they are made of. Aristide, a self-made drag queen and smuggler, Cordelia, a dancer, and Cyril, a spy who'd much rather not do too much spying, see their paths cross in ways they couldn't have predicted.

I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. Coming in, I'd expected to enjoy the spying and star-crossed romance between the spy and his mark, and to be annoyed by the demimonde. Instead, I fo
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Gabrielle
I can be a bit of an easy mark sometimes when it comes to selling me books. Decopunk (I’ve also seen it described as noirpunk) retelling of the end of the Weimar Republic blurbed enthusiastically by Robert Jackson Bennett and Mary Robinette Kowal? Sold. See, how easy was that? The question now becomes: did I waste my money? As you might be able to guess by the 4 star rating, nope, I didn’t!

The city of Amberlough is a cultural and commercial hub, and while some political trouble seems to be brewi
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kari
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I'll try to review it when heartache stops, okay? ...more
Ashley Marie
I wasn't sure about this in the beginning; to be clear, it's not the book's fault that I couldn't mentally place it into a neat little genre box. This one might actually have everything -- it feels like a historical novel, in its analogous 1930s-esque setting, dripping whiskey and champagne and perfume and sweat all over the floorboards. The story is told against a vivid backdrop of hardscrabble theatre, charming restaurants, grimy apartments, and every single corner feels so utterly lived in th ...more
Kaa
Jul 06, 2019 marked it as dnf
DNF @ 62%. I may come back to this eventually. The story should be exciting, but I'm not feeling very invested. Also, I'm really struggling (view spoiler) I'm not saying it shouldn't be written about, but it's not the story for me right now. ...more
Elena (and the books)
3.75/5

385 pages that will make you question your morality but also your knowledge of the English language
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Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of the Nebula, Lambda, and Locus-nominated trilogy The Amberlough Dossier, as well as short fiction and poetry appearing in venues including Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Uncanny.

Lara has taught in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, as well as the Catapult Workshop in New York. She is a graduate of the Clarion and Alpha writers’ workshops, a
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Other books in the series

The Amberlough Dossier (3 books)
  • Armistice (The Amberlough Dossier, #2)
  • Amnesty (The Amberlough Dossier, #3)

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