The Dark City (Book 1 of the Relic Master Series), by Catherine Fisher (Dial, May 17 2011, mg/YA, 384 pages) is an engrossing blend of science fiction and fantasy.
Rather late, the winners of the two copies are Brooke and Brandy! Thanks all of you who entered.
Anara is a world where an ancient civilization is crumbling into darkness. Member of the old Order, whose spirits are linked to the forces of nature, and who keep alive the stories of the Makers, are ruthlessly prosecuted by the inquisition of the governing Watch. To the Watch, members of the Order are nothing more than believers in dangerous superstition, to be exterminated whenever they are found (after being tortured, to convince them to betray their fellows).
Anara is a world where humans live alongside a race of others--the fur-covered Sekoi, who keep old knowledge of their own.
Anara is a world where the works of the Makers can still be found--some deadly, some with mysterious powers, and some simply sitting enigmatically in the landscape. At the center of that lost world was the great and wondrous city of Tasceron, that has now become a pit of darkness and chaos after a cataclysm of epic proportions. It is truly a dark city, where monsters hunt the unwary.
And Anara is home to young Raffi, the apprentice of a man named Galen, one of the few surviving members of the Order. Along with Galen, and a young woman named Carys (who has secrets of her own), Raffi will face terrible dangers on a quest to find the ultimate lost relic in that dark city...but if they can find the secret they are looking for (and stay alive and away from the Watch), they might just save their world.
The Dark City is a truly gripping journey quest story. It's the sort of quest whose greater point isn't immediately clear to the reader, but which becomes increasingly more apparent as the backstory of the characters and their world is slowly, almost teasingly, rolled out. The beginning is a tad confusing, and you might think that Fisher isn't covering new ground here, but as the story continues, it becomes beautifully epic, beautifully complicated, and fascinating as all get out.
The Relic Master series is already published over in the UK; the first book came out in 1999, called The Relic Master, and the series was called The Book of the Crow. Happily for us here in the US, the next three books in the series are being briskly rolled out over the course of the summer. Not only do I want to find out what happens, I want to get to know the characters better, and find out more about this mysterious sci fi meets fantasy planet on which they live! Here they all are, in their great handsomeness:
And here's when we can expect them:
Book Two: The Lost Heiress, June 14
Book Three: The Hidden Coronet, July 12
Book Four: The Margrave, August 9
Note on age: Fisher made a bit of a splash here in the US recently with Incarceron and its sequel, Sapphique, which are most definitely for teenage (and older) readers. This series is being marketed to teenagers too, but it seems to me that it reads a tad younger--The Dark City is a book I'm happy to recommend to upper middle grade readers as well, not simply because there is no romance sub-plot. This might well happen in the next three books--after all, our cast of characters includes a teenage girl and a teenage boy. But regardless of that, sixth and seventh grade kids who like dark (ie, difficult, with monsters, and no happy walks in the sunshine) adventure should eat this up.
Fisher assumes that her readers will lose themselves in her story without having to be explicitly Told things in long passages of disquisition in which nothing is happening, and I think that this approach to storytelling (brisk and respectful of the reader's ability to make sense of things in medias res) is spot on for many younger readers (and many older ones too, of course...).
And the fact that the series is being released throughout the summer makes it perfect for summer vacation reading....
Courtesy of the publisher, I have two copies of The Dark City to give away! Just leave a comment to be entered (closes at midnight on May 23, so you have a smidge more than a week).
Just to convince you that you might want to enter (and I do strongly recommend this one), here's the trailer:
disclaimer: review copy gratefully received from the publisher.