Review: The Dark City (Relicmaster 1) by Catherine Fisher

Posted 19 April, 2011 by Danny in / 8 Comments

by Catherine Fisher
Publishing: May 12, 2011
Links: Indiebound
(order from an Independent Bookstore near YOU!)
Amazon (available as Kindle edition)
Book provided by Book It Forward ARC Tours in exchange for a fair review
Synopsis from Goodreads

Welcome to Anara, a world mysteriously crumbling to devastation, where nothing is what it seems: Ancient relics emit technologically advanced powers, members of the old Order are hunted by the governing Watch yet revered by the people, and the great energy that connects all seems to also be destroying all. The only hope for the world lies in Galen, a man of the old Order and a Keeper of relics, and his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Raffi. They know of a secret relic with great power that has been hidden for centuries. As they search for it, they will be tested beyond their limits. For there are monsters ~some human, some not~ that also want the relic’s power and will stop at nothing to get it.


I fell in love with Catherine Fisher’s writing when I encountered the gloriously intricate and hauntingly beautiful yet bleak world she created in Incarceron. I loved that book so much that when I saw that The Dark City was going on tour I signed up immediately.

What I didn’t realize was that this was the author’s first foray into full on, grand scale world building. Which is not to say the world she creates isn’t rich and layered, it is. But I came into this book knowing her writing through Incarceron and Sapphique and it took me a while to set aside my love for those books and focus on enjoying what was before me. Fortunately for me, there were some similarities between the two that I really resonated with me: a dystopian future where technology is not widely used or understood, a society in the midst of a desperate power struggle and characters that while flawed I not only liked reading about but truly empathized with.

In The Dark City we meet a group of characters who all have their personal crosses to bear: Galen, the Relicmaster who’s lost his powers, Raffi, the pupil who must help bear his master’s burden and still learn his craft, Carys, the spy from the Watch who finds herself questioning everything she ever knew and the Sekoi, an aboriginal creature from the planet Anara whose world was overrun by the Starmen when the Makers first landed and whose true loyalties are as of yet unknown. As they travel together to the once proud now desolate city of Tasceron they must learn to trust one another while in search of the power of the Makers in an effort to free themselves and the people of Anara from the cruel regime of the Watch.

I am a fan of science fiction from way back, but it has been a while since I’ve delved into distant worlds, so it took me a while to get into my groove on Anara. Still the drama that underlies this story is so universal, I was easily drawn in. I felt for Galen and how deep he ached at the loss of his powers. I loved Raffi, who suffered along with Galen, and is such a sweet soul. And I could easily understand how Carys, with the only life she’d ever known dissolving in a pack of lies, would not even know herself where her loyalties lie.

This was a truly interesting story, and a great first book, but there are SO MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED!!!! I am definitely looking forward to the next books, which will be available here in the USA shortly.

Bottom Line

Even though it leaves many open threads, this gripping first book launches a series guaranteed to fill your summer days with fantastic reading.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 books!

Final Notes

As I said above, this book is the first in a series that will actually be releasing one book a month all summer long! I was initially impressed by the amount of work this entailed, this book was almost 400 pages long and one imagines the other three will be of similar length, but I subsequently realized that this series was written back in late 1990’s/early 2000’s and is merely being re-release. Still, I love the fact that when picking up this series you know that you’ll be able to read the end of it by the end of the summer, no matter when they were originally published! The remaining titles in this series are:

I’m very much looking forward to spending more time with Galen, Raffi, Carys and their Sekoi friend as the summer rolls on.

Now go and get lost…in a book!

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