M/G/W received this book for free from the mentioned source in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect the reviewers opinion of the book nor the content of this review.
Title: Unwrapped Sky
Author: Rjurik Davidson
Series: Caeli-Amur #1
Publisher: Tor Books
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Magic, Minotaurs, Steampunk
Pages: 430 Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Add It: Goodreads
Grab It: Amazon •
A hundred years ago, the Minotaurs saved Caeli-Amur from conquest. Now, three very different people may hold the keys to the city's survival.
Once, it is said, gods used magic to create reality, with powers that defied explanation. But the magic—or science, if one believes those who try to master the dangers of thaumaturgy—now seems more like a dream. Industrial workers for House Technis, farmers for House Arbor, and fisher folk of House Marin eke out a living and hope for a better future. But the philosopher-assassin Kata plots a betrayal that will cost the lives of godlike Minotaurs; the ambitious bureaucrat Boris Autec rises through the ranks as his private life turns to ashes; and the idealistic seditionist Maximilian hatches a mad plot to unlock the vaunted secrets of the Great Library of Caeli-Enas, drowned in the fabled city at the bottom of the sea, its strangeness visible from the skies above.
In a novel of startling originality and riveting suspense, these three people, reflecting all the hopes and dreams of the ancient city, risk everything for a future that they can create only by throwing off the shackles of tradition and superstition, as their destinies collide at ground zero of a conflagration that will transform the world . . . or destroy it.
Unwrapped Sky is an ambitions fantasy novel with a breathtakingly vast world tangled in a web of deceit, betrayal, and revolution. Set in a unique semi-steampunk fantasy universe, the ancient city of Caeli-Amur is under attack by the threats of war and change. Ruled by three separate Houses, the citizens who battle harsh working conditions, life on the streets, technology gone awry and residual effects of thaumaturgy, are finding ways to deal with everyday life and better themselves. For readers, in the span of minutes the world of Caeli-Amur opens into a strange and twisted realm assembled by rights and wrongs, political intrigue and dangerously high stakes for all those involved.
The story is told from three perspectives. First is Kata, a philosopher-assassin (cool right?!) tasked with killing two minotaurs to repay her debts. As a child who grew up on the streets, Kata’s main concern is self-preservation, despite the blasphemy she will commit by killing such sacred creatures. Second, Boris, subofficiate of House Technis who’s addicted to hot-wine and has an estranged relationship with his daughter. Boris continues to struggle with the death of his wife and keeping the peace between factory workers and the evil misshapen beings in charge. Third is Maximilian, a seditionist who is very interested in thaumaturgy and seeks to use it for the uprising. Each character despite their faults and hasty decisions that sometimes turn out to be severe mistakes with dire consequences, were a pleasure to read and sometimes even great to loathe.
From the beginning of the story I felt myself most drawn to Kata’s story and least in love with Boris. I enjoyed watching Kata make mistakes, fall flat on her face, and rise from the ashes to do what was necessary to ensure her survival. Majority of the time she knows what she does it wrong, that she’s often harsh and unfeeling, but at the same time she’s also aware this is the world she lives in and if she wasn’t those things she’d be on the streets or worse, dead. She’s a strong individual and it’s her sheer will to live that keeps her safe. Boris on the other hand is on the opposite end of this spectrum. Through he strongly believes that he is looking out for other people and keeping the peace between workers and those in charge, he has a habit of betraying people and not rising to action when the time calls for it – and in the process creates mayhem for those in his immediate circle.
For a fantasy world of this magnitude one can almost expect there to be a downside. My only complaints with this novel are the long bits of exposition in some places and the lack of a glossary of terms. Unwrapped Sky is an amazing story, compassionate, and written with heart. However, I found myself suffering from bouts of confusion at times when people would refer to certain terms or places. There was always something new to discover (such as Xsanthians, Anlusian New-Men, and disembodied Elo-Talern) and I wish I had something to refer back to for reference. Because of this, my reading pace slowed in some spots but it wasn’t enough to deter my excitement or keep me from wanting to learn what happened next. In terms of the uprising against the houses, where a particular group of people come from, their races, and the principles of thaumaturgy (which to me appeared to be a mix of magic and alchemy), I believed some parts could have used more explanation. But in the same notion, I got the gist of everything without it (I think).
Overall, the world-building spun by Davidson in Unwrapped Sky is outstanding. The characters are deeply flawed almost to the point of no return and the politics are enough to keep you guessing who will survive in such an ugly and death filled world. While parts of the story seemed slow, the majority will keep you on the edge of your seat with eager fascination. And don’t forget, this book has minotaurs…it doesn’t get much better than that. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in an engrossing fantasy that will whisk you off to faraway places.
3 Finished Copies of Unwrapped Sky
Open to US and Canada (PO Boxes okay)
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