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City of Lies

(Poison War #1)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,918 ratings  ·  519 reviews
WINNER of the Ditmar Awards for Best Novel and Best New Talent, the Norma K Hemming Award, and the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel!

Poison. Treachery. Ancient spirits. Sieges. The Poison Wars begin now, with City of Lies, a fabulous epic fantasy debut by Sam Hawke

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me...

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the
Kindle Edition, 503 pages
Published July 3rd 2018 by Tor Books
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Sam Hawke Thank you so much, Dimitris, that is so kind of you to say! I'm really delighted the story and the characters resonated for you and I really appreciat…moreThank you so much, Dimitris, that is so kind of you to say! I'm really delighted the story and the characters resonated for you and I really appreciate you letting me know. :) Yes, I have been writing a long time but I took a long time to finish something I was confident enough in to submit anywhere (I'm not very good at writing short things...). Cheers, Sam(less)
Sam Hawke Hi Deborah,

There will be a sequel next year, Hollow Empire, but as yet I'm not contracted for any more than that. City of Lies functions as a complete…more
Hi Deborah,

There will be a sequel next year, Hollow Empire, but as yet I'm not contracted for any more than that. City of Lies functions as a complete standalone but the events of Hollow Empire are related if you enjoy it enough to want to keep reading. :)


Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,918 ratings  ·  519 reviews

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Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery/fantasy fans
ARC provided by the publisher—Tor—in exchange for an honest review.

An alluring debut imbued with a perpetual threat of lies and treachery.

City of Lies is Sam Hawke’s debut novel and the first book in the Poison Wars series. For the same reason as one of my most anticipated debuts of the year—The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang—I was intrigued by this one because of the amazing cover. Yes, I’m a sucker for a book with great cover art and I’m not ashamed of it. The main difference though is that I’ve wait
Robin Hobb
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of mystery mingled with fantasy.
My usual caveat: I know Sam Hawke as a personal friend. I don't think this affects what I say about books, but I like to be transparent.

Are you tired of books about assassins? Noble assassins, sociopath assassins, assassins you'd like to date, etc?

Have you wondered about the flip side of that coin? Who guards against assassins? Who would be in a position to thwart the one(s) eager to put the Chancellor into the ground?

This is the tale of Jovan and his sister Kalina. They are heirs to the family
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sam Hawke writes an impressively accomplished debut in the first of her Poison Wars series in which she creates and establishes a remarkably complex piece of world building with echoes of the many issues that plague and divide our contemporary society. It begins with a killer first line 'I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me', Jovan is fulfilling the family tradition of being a proofer, a poison expert and tester for the ruling family of Sjona in the so called bright city of ...more
 Charlie - A Reading Machine
City of Lies was entertaining from start to finish. It was incredibly refreshing to see poison front and centre in a book.

City of Lies follows the two viewpoints of brother and sister combo Jovan and Kalina, whose uncle is the poison taster or ‘proofer’ for the ruling chancellor. When they are both killed by an unknown toxin, Jov’s best friend Tain is elevated to the throne and it is up to Jov to not only solve the mystery of who poisoned his Uncle but also protect the new ruler. Whilst all thi
Caz (littlebookowl)
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned, book-club
Rating: 2.5 stars

I had such high expectations for this and was immediately drawn into the world, however, I was disappointed with the execution. I had issues with the pacing, info-dumps and the antagonist's motivations didn't feel strong enough.

I think I would have loved this more if the book had been condensed and if we'd experienced everything from Kallina's perspective - and I might ship her with her brother's love interest....
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
First in the Poison Wars series, and the debut novel by Sam Hawke, City of Lies starts out as a kind of murder mystery- the Chancellor of Silasta is fatally dosed with a substance unknown to his closest friend, secret guardian and master of poisons, Etan. His death, and the subsequent arrival of a similarly mysterious army outside the gates, seem more than coincidence. Investigations are left to the Chancellor’s Heir, Tain, and his two best friends, Jovan and Kalina, nice and nephew to Etan. The ...more
DNF at ~40%

There are many different reasons that makes us as readers read a book. For me there were three main reasons that made me read this one: The gorgeous art cover, the blurb line and all the glowing reviews this was getting from all my friends here at GR. There was no way I was not gonna like this, right??!!!

It turns out I was wrong because I expected something and got something else completely. The book has a perfect opening line:

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
I liked the ending and how the mystery wrapped up but this book took forever to get there! It was so slow and I found myself not caring at points. This was more political than magical as well. One of our main characters has OCD and the other is chronically ill, so I enjoyed seeing that representation in the story but still found myself not caring that much about the characters throughout. This ended like a stand-alone so I don’t feel compelled to continue with the series.
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
City of Lies turned out to be an OK first entry into Sam Hawke's Poison Wars series. This fantasy had a nice mix of murder mystery and political intrigue. It was not super fast paced or full of action but it did have some moments like that and the other elements of the story were interesting enough. It also had a degree of originality and freshness to the world building.

The book had a lot of positives going for it but also had a bunch of flaws and the end result was that I found this a bit avera
Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance
4.25 stars

YES YES YES...I had hoped for that ending :)

The peace has been broken. There's a traitor among the trusted. Has the city's chancellor known about this all along?

City of Lies by Sam Hawke bares a hint in the title about 'lies' that gives away some clue to the rise of the powerful who built wealth upon and separated themselves from other classes of citizens in the foundation of a huge and mighty city (built upon lies). A very clever and character-driven story that's wonderfully imagined
Lauren Stoolfire
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Jovan is the quiet and forgettable friend of Tain, the Chancellor’s charming yet irresponsible Heir. He's also a master of poisons and chemicals. He has been trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from unknown dangers. When the Chancellor falls to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect Tain and save the city-state of Silasta. But treachery lurks in every corner, and the a
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Honestly, if I had known more about this book when it first came out it would have been one I picked up far faster. I loved the concept of this one from the blurb, and Robin Hobb is one of the people who endorsed it, but I was still pleasantly surprised when I read it to find it was far more than I expected. It also gave me quite a few Realm-of-the-Elderlings Vibes and that is always a good thing.

This story is a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of Proofers. Proofing is an art and a delicat
Liz Barnsley
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
City of Lies was an incredible piece of storytelling and by far one of my favourite early reads of the year so far.
Considering it’s not a short novel I banged through it in record time- pretty much three binge reading sessions where I immersed myself into the the city of Silasta, with its vibrant eclectic cultures and wide range of characters, where we meet Jovan and Kalina, the narrator’s of this epic tale, both of whom you will stick with through thick and thin.
“I was seven years old the first
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As the kids say, I have all the feels.
Review to come. And *yes*, pre-order it you guys. It's awesome.


I received a digital ARC from the publisher, Tor, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Have you ever encountered books that push all the right buttons, play all the right notes, tick all the boxes — in short, fit so well your tastes that it feels like it was written for you?

City of Lies is that kind of book for me
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
First off, I want to thank the publisher and author for an eARC of ‘City of Lies’ in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this eARC in no way influences my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me…

With a hook like that, how is one not at least interested in learning more? On top of that, DAT COVER DOE. As you may probably well know, I am a sucker for beautiful book covers and this one caught my eye when it was revealed last year. I waited…an
Nick Borrelli
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Click here for my full review:

Let me start first by thanking Tor Books for providing me an advanced reader copy of this book, as the official release date for CITY OF LIES is July 3, 2018. I always appreciating receiving review copies before the actual publication date and I do not ever take that for granted. I also have to admit to being somewhat ignorant with regard to this title until very recently. However, once I read the synopsis of CITY OF LIES by S
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly thrilling! Part espionage intrigue, part class warfare, part murder mystery, CITY OF LIES is a captivating and occasionally heart-wrenching tale. The world is full and detailed: Silasta feels like a real city, with shades of Rome, London, or Tenochtitlan, yet entirely itself. Jovan and Kalina are compelling protagonists, each with glorious strengths and touching vulnerabilities. I greatly enjoyed this and look forward to continuing the series! (Copy received from NetGalley for review)
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review from Tenacious Reader:

City of Lies is an excellent debut and start to the Poison Wars series. The story follows a brother and sister, Jovan and Kalina, as their world turns upside down by the assassinations of the uncle and the Chancellor, who he was trained to protect. Throw in a rebellion, traitors, and a siege, and the pages of this book really start flying by as you can’t help but try to read faster to find out who’s side everyone is on, how th
Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller
[1.5/5 stars] IMO, when you have a series labeled “Poison Wars,” it should contain characters dropping off left and right from poisonings (not just occasionally). It should have practicing master of poisons for the main character (meaning I wanted to be immersed in his experiences with it). It should provide a significant number of fun facts about different poisons, how they affect people, and how to counter them (more than just in the chapter introductions – include it in the story!).

This book
Ian Ségal
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
City of Lies is palatably poisonous! There’s no antidote that will counter the effects of being fully enraptured by this book!

I received this ARC from NetGalley and the publisher, Macmillan-Tor/Forge Books, in e-book format for an honest and unbiased review. I would like to extend a special thanks to NetGalley, Tor Books, and especially Sam Hawke for crafting an unparalleled tale!

New author Sam Hawke delivers us into a world of deception and intrigue, framed with the pen strokes of murder and m
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Honor-down! City of Lies is a book filled with intrigue and violent passion, young idealism and old-world fanaticism, but most of all a loyalty among friends that will keep readers eagerly coming back for more of this series.

Full review here:

All my reviews can be found here:
Mogsy (MMOGC)
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

City of Lies might not have completely won over my heart, but I will however give it the award for the most intriguing opening line I’ve read all year. “I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me,” begins our protagonist Jovan, who is one half of a pair of highborn siblings whose family the Oromanis have long been entrusted to serve a sacred duty. Their job can be likened to that of Secret Service, keeping
Julia Sarene
This was really good, especially for a debut author!

It is an interesting plot that felt fresh to me. So far I hadn't read about a food taster (or proofer as they are called in this one) often, and I liked the different viewpoint to the usual warrior or soldier or such. Combining that as just a part of a bigger story with plenty of politics, religion and other topics worked really well!

An absolute strong point was the balance of the characters. Strong ones and weak ones, females and males, good
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley, 2018
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

City of Lies is one of those books that starts off slow and you're not quite sure how you feel about it. The next thing you know, you're finishing the book at 2AM. It's an interesting take on the epic fantasy genre with more character building than fighting.

What I loved about City of Lies is how character-driven it is. This book could have easily been half its length, without the introspection we get from the main duo
This book was nothing short of amazing. The story of Jovan and Kalina, friends of the chancellor, Tain, as their city goes through intrigue and betrayal. Sam Hawke writes a brilliant story with characters who are so well developed and interesting that I did not want to put this book down for even a moment. Jovan and Kalina were amazing and are now among my favourite ever characters; the likes of FitzChivalry Farseer, Sam Vimes, Hadrian Blackwater, Sand Dan Glokta, and Thomas Senlin.

The novel is
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh my GOD I loved this book. I'm too lazy to write a proper review right now, but here's things this book had that I loved:

- NICE CHARACTERS. Everyone wants to solve everything they can as diplomatically as possible. There's an army laying siege outside our gates -> "Let's figure out what they want, can we make a deal with them, are their grievances legitimate?" Tain (the Chancellor) especially would really be besties with Julius from the Heartstrikers series. Diplomacy! <3

DNF’d At 53%.
I’ve been really struggling to get into this. For me it’s moving very slow and nothing is riveting me or making it so I want to continue reading it. I may pick it back up in the future but for now I’m done
David Zampa
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-person-pov
AH, it's done, and what a fine romp it was. It's going to be a difficult book to talk about, seeing as there's so much potential for spoilers, but I'll give it a go.

First off, this book is a fantasy mystery/suspense novel, and a damn good one. The multitude of twists and turns in the plot are artfully unveiled over the course of the book through the intimate perspective of its two narrators. A brother and sister, they tell the story in alternating first person, which I love. I run into so few mu
Cupcakes & Machetes
I received this copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Fuck. Yes.

One of my favorite reads of 2018 thus far.

I’m so bubbled over with excitement that I don’t even know where to begin with this review. I guess with honesty. For about 75% of this book I was convinced it was going to be a 4 star read. Nothing wrong with that at all, but the last 25% really sent me over that edge.

If epic fantasy is your preferred genre, as it is mine, then you know that a very high per
Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.

Who said big and chunky epic fantasy novels weren’t appetizing? Debut author Sam Hawke rushes to the table to prove their worth by serving us a delicious tale stuffed with poison, political treachery and ancient spirits. This dish however doesn’t come on the usual silver platter. What we find ourselves in front is a fantasy story grounded in mystery. As rare as they are, Sam Hawke showcases her outstanding storytelling talent and presents us a d
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I have wanted to write books ever since realising as a child that they didn’t just breed between themselves in libraries. Having contemplated careers as varied as engineer, tax accountant and zookeeper I eventually settled on the law. After marrying my jujitsu training partner and travelling to as many countries as possible on very little budget, I now live in Canberra, Australia, raising two smal ...more

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Poison War (2 books)
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