We never saw them coming.
Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.
Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.
But the enemy’s tactics are changing, and Earth’s defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back. (goodreads.com)
Just so you know, this author created a world and he is going to tell you about every single detail of every single corner of this world down to the tiniest minutiae. Hope you’re comfortable.
Especially considering I just read FIRST KING OF SHANNARA and I found it such a slog because it was so overwritten, I was not expecting to get thrown right into another. Any action in the story, any character development, all lost in the expansive pit of detail that is this book. And I don’t say that lovingly. I felt like I was being schooled half the time. If I wanted to read an engineering textbook, I’d just read an engineering textbook. I zoned out on about half of the book. It just couldn’t hold my attention with all of the unnecessary detail about how every little element of this world worked. You seriously could have cut out about 3/4 of NINTH CITY BURNING and you’d still have the same story.
Character development? Uh . . . not much of it? I felt people like Rae and Naomi, who were supposed to be tribal nomads who wandered the country, were erratic at best. I don’t know if their style of speech was supposed to be satirical or not but it was so ridiculous I couldn’t keep my focus. Naomi is a twelve-year-old and she talks like she’s in a MFA program trying to showcase her bank of SAT words. Apparently this is how the tribes talk? Before they got brought into the city they came across another tribe that sounded like a bunch of lawyers. I don’t know if this is a “instead of having poorly educated tribespeople I’m going to have highly educated tribespeople but not actually substantiate why” type of thing but it just didn’t fit. Plus Rachel, the older sister, was supposed to be so concerned about Naomi going to war but they basically forgot about each other for a third of the book. Only to get reminded of each other at the end.
Kizabel’s POV chapters had footnotes. Some of them were seemingly meant to be pithy and cute and a nominal play on pop culture, but I was over it. When I’m already slogging through an overwritten book the last thing I need are chapters riddled with footnotes.
Torro was just annoying to read. I hated his voice. Somewhat stream-of-consciousness and supposed to be of a lower educational level but things kept slipping through that he probably wouldn’t say, things about how systems worked, technological details, etc. The kid was a canner. As in a guy who canned food and lived in what is basically a low income settlement. Yes, he was on par with Kizabel, and engineer, in explanting how things worked. All unexplained as to how he would know any of it.
Vinneas I didn’t see much change in. He was probably the dullest character of them all and most forgettable. Jax would be second to Vinneas on the dull scale. At least he grew a little bit as a character. He started off an afraid little boy and ended up still a little boy but one that would jump head-first into a fight for the greater good.
All of the characters seemed to have the same level of knowledge about the science and magic going on in this world and when talking about it they all sounded exactly the same. I’m going to go ahead and call this one authorial insert and leave it at that.
The story in NINTH CITY BURNING is secondary to all of the world-building Black has done. There’s actually very little story here. The aliens are faceless mentions for the majority of the book, until the very end at the first major battle and even then you don’t get to see what they actually look like. They’re a distant threat that I’m supposed to care about when they attack. Only I can’t muster up the energy to.
I was so incredibly bored reading this book. And it took me so long to read because of the dry-science-class lectures I kept getting on world-specific science. I’m not kidding when I say 3/4 of this book can be cut and you’d still get the same story. It’s unnecessarily long, there’s very little character or plot development, very little story, and next to no conflict outside of an unknown, distant force. Any action is drowned out in extraneous detail or told in a way that completely removes the reader from immediacy, many times it being from a character that wasn’t involved and is relaying what had happened in past tense.
The plot sounds so good and the execution of it was so bad. I applaud you if your eyes don’t glaze over reading this. It really does make me sad because it really is a good plot. But holy crap, author, get out of the book. Let the story tell itself and stop flooding my head with all of your unnecessary world detail.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.