Book Review: The City Darkens (Luka's Chosen) by Sophia Martin

The City Darkens (Luka’s Chosen) (hereunto CD) is a diselpunk novel set in a theocratic dystopia. It features country-dwelling Myadar who, with her son Bersi, is reluctantly whisked away to the city of Helésey by her domineering mother-in-law – the first of a succession of snotty characters – to join Myadar’s cold husband for the coronation of the konunger. The husband, Reister, lives in the city and seldom sees Myadar (who, by the way, is not snotty at all), but has summoned her to this coronation because, as Myadar soon finds out, court life is like high school on steroids, and jarls are expected to show up with their respective counterparts. And then the unexpected occurs, but such intriguing events are too wonderful for me to spill in a book review, because y’all should go read it for yourself and BE AMAZED. (Or read a slightly wordier blurb on GoodReads.)

CD may be Sophia Martin’s debut in high-fantasy*, but her talent for world-building attests to what must be a finely tuned fluency in such genres. Her descriptions of Helésey’s people and architecture, as well as the 1920s fashions floating around court, are thorough and immaculate – quite different from her Veronica Barry series, which is set in the very much not fictional city of Sacramento. The reader’s transportation to Helésey is further aided by strange titles for royalty and nobility – konunger/konungdis , jarl/jardis, etc. – but nothing for which a glossary is required. I found that the foreign words were successfully woven into the context of the narrative, so they did not break the spell or leave me puzzling over their meanings.

All the rich detail, however, does not drag down the plot. Perhaps because CD began as a serial novel, none of the chapters can afford to slow down for too long to luxuriate in sensory description. Each section of prose is dynamic with the increasing action of the novel: a well-paced whirlwind of the good, the bad, and the sexy that keeps turning corners until the very end.

More points of interest include airplanes, robots, female empowerment, and gay love – albeit, of all the sex acts in the novel, there is far more hetero than homo. Fans of Norse mythology will delight in the abundance of references to assorted gods and goddesses.

CD is only available in ebook format, and can be found for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

* A term I have little authority in wielding, so I hope I didn’t wield it too inaccurately.

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