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Amberlough

(The Amberlough Dossier #1)

by
3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,575 Ratings  ·  505 Reviews
A double-agent sacrifices all his ideals in order to save his smuggler lover before a government coup takes over their decadent city in Lara Elena Donnelly's glam spy thriller debut



"Exploring the roots of hatred, nationalism, and fascism, while at the same time celebrating the diversity, love, romance, fashion, and joy the world is capable of producing." --Bookriot

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Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by Tor Books (first published February 7th 2017)
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Elise (TheBookishActress)
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 boo
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Philip
2ish 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 in
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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  ·  review of another edition
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 Bal
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Optimist ♰King's Wench♰ & MANTIES Champion
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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Lindsay
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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Seth Dickinson
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Rachel (Kalanadi)
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!
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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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 b
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Emily
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
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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Emily
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, arrogant
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Mel
Feb 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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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Roy
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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kari
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'll try to review it when heartache stops, okay?
Victoria
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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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James Chatham
Amberlough is a stunning, fresh take on the fantasy genre. It takes place in a fantasy world, but the story and setting never feels all that fantastical - there’s no magic and the society within is reminiscent of the western 1930s, with cabarets, absinthe bars, and the like. The plot itself is one of espionage. Main character Cyril DePaul is caught in political strife and in working both sides of the conflict he also must try to protect his lover, Aristide, who happens to be a smuggler (as well ...more
Bridget Mckinney
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Amberlough is a brilliantly inventive and gorgeously accomplished first novel for Lara Elena Donnelly, who manages to both test the limits of the fantasy genre and craft a whip smart and timely political thriller at the same time. Comparisons to Cabaret and Le Carré are accurate enough (and certainly intriguing enough for marketing reasons), though I always think we do a disservice to fresh, original work by using such comparisons to shape reader expectations. Amberlough is a fine novel on its o ...more
Manju
3.5 stars.
Fabulitas
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*It's somewhere between 4 and 5 stars, but I'm giving it 5 for giving me all the feels.*

***minor spoilers maybe***

There was a cabaret and there was a master of ceremonies and there was a city called Berlin... oh sorry, wrong book.

Where to start then? There was a cabaret and there was a master of ceremonies (and he was a handful) and there was a city called Amberlough... long story short, in Amberlough the tensions are raising. One State Party (think: Nazis) is gaining support and power, but the
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Acqua
...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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Leseparatist
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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georgia ☽
“Among the brooks and gorse and muddy stone, he let the façade fall. His own weakness broke his heart, and frightened him.”

this started off slow. i don't mean that in a negative way; the slowness of the beginning really allowed for the author to develop the characters and the setting.

the best word i can think of to describe this book is atmospheric. i felt like i was in amberlough- the cabarets, the crime, the politics of it all is all so well-developed that i was wholly immersed in the story.
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Michael Hicks
Cripes sakes. Another DNF title. I'm not sure if I'm just picking books unsuitable to my tastes of late, or if it's just a string of bad luck. Maybe I'm getting unbearably picky in my old age. This one is just boring the crap out of me, though. After a couple hours into the audiobook, I have no idea who these people are, why the locations they talk about are the least bit important, or what the fuck the plot is even supposed to be. Blah. No rating.
Allison
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
10 stars??? 10? yes?
Lauren Stoolfire
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly is a brilliantly executed John le Carre meets Cabaret LGBT+ fantasy spy thriller set in a Weimar Republic, Germany-esque world. I had read many fantastic and gushing reviews of this story before going in (and just look at that awesome cover, to boot!) and, luckily for me, the story totally lives ups to it! I couldn't get enough of their world and the spies at the center of the story - Amberlough City is practically a character in its own right. All in all the st ...more
Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
The best comparison I can make for Amberlough is that it’s a cross of Orwell’s 1984 and Kushner’s Swordspoint. It’s fantasy without magic, set in a world based on Weimar Berlin and experiencing the rise of fascism. Oh, and the three central characters are a gay spy, his smuggler lover, and a stripper who acts as his beard. Amberlough is both dark and somehow delightful.

Amberlough City is a corrupt but cultured city, the bustling heart of Gedda. But the One State Party (“Ospies”) want to unite Ge
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Lucille
A solid 3 or 3,5
While I struggled with the first half because I wasn't expecting so much politics and sexual activities, the second half had me very invested on the fate of the three main characters. It took me two weeks to read the first half and one evening for the second one, my heart beating alongside them and horrified in a can't-look-away way for everything happening.

content warning: torture, suicide, sex
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The all-singing, all-dancing Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of AMBERLOUGH, a vintage-glam spy thriller, and a graduate of the Alpha and Clarion writers’ workshops. Her work has appeared in venues including Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Uncanny (forthcoming). A veteran of small town Ohio and the Derby City, Lara now lives in Manhattan. You can also find her online at @larazontally ...more

Other books in the series

The Amberlough Dossier (3 books)
  • Armistice (The Amberlough Dossier, #2)
  • Amnesty (The Amberlough Dossier, #3)
“Among the brooks and gorse and muddy stone, he let the façade fall. His own weakness broke his heart, and frightened him.” 6 likes
“Well, you know what they say."
"'A chipped pot still holds soup'?"
"I was going to go with 'one-legged whore's still got holes.”
3 likes
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