In the fantastical, gaslit underground city of Recoletta, oligarchs from foreign states and revolutionaries from the farming communes vie for power in the wake of the city’s coup. The dark, forbidden knowledge of how the city came to be founded has been released into the world for all to read, and now someone must pay.
Inspector Liesl Malone is on her toes, trying to keep the peace, and Arnault’s spy ring is more active than ever. Has the city’s increased access to knowledge put the citizens in even more danger? Allegiances change, long-held beliefs are adjusted, and things are about to get messy.
I'm very happy to return to the tunnels of Recoletta, after getting to know the city in the previous book, The buried life. In Cities and thrones, the story picks up where it left off, and will not be an optimal read if you didn't read the first book. (And, really, it's a fast and fun read, so why wouldn't you?)
Not only do we return to Recoletta - we get to see some of the rest of the world, too. Some have fled from Sato's revolution to seek refuge in other cities, like the somewhat Arab-decorated city of Medina. Between these, there are whole communities of odd people who choose to dwell above-ground. Here, the victorian-esque class society becomes quite caricatured, and tensions are high.
I've seen a lot of people describe Recoletta as steampunk, but I'm not so sure. I don't think a sense of old-timey aristocracy is enough to wedge a story onto that shelf. That said, it remains difficult to sort this book onto either the science fiction or the fantasy shelf - it reads mostly like an urban fantasy police procedural kind of thing (though Cities and thrones is much heavier on the political scheming), but the story keeps hinting at Recoletta being a city found in the future, post-whateveritwas.
I'm obviously going to hurry to read the next book when it arrives, because I direly want to know what happened in this world's history. Almost as much as the characters themselves want to obtain that information, probably.
Jane Lin remains an interesting character - at least as long as she's held up next to inspector Malone's stark moral alignment. Jane appears kind, compassionate - but doesn't hesitate to move into moral shades of gray as her situation changes. She's refreshingly complex, but stable - which is a treat in an action-adventure like this.
Immerse your way into Recoletta for a mini summer vacation. It's underground, at least it won't be very rainy, right?