The tainted city [book review]

I had bought the first book in Courtney Schafer’s trilogy, The Shattered Sigil, because of its nice cover that hinted at mountains and climbing. The second tome in the series, The tainted city, is much less involved in those two interests of mine, except for one page or two on mixed climbing, with ice-axes, crampons, and the skills of using them on both ice and rock. (And has a terrible cover.) Most of the book takes place within cities and is about power fights in both parts of the book universe. Previous characters are back, with an interesting balance between good and evil for one of them, plus a few new ones, including of course a new arch-evil one…

“Prediction is always challenging with currents as complex as those…” (p.226)

While I found the first volume somehow clumsy in its psychology, The tainted city is much better balanced in this respect, as characters have gained in depth and consistency. They are more ambivalent too, including even the frightening magician Ruslan. The universe behind the books is also getting better described, with the way(s) magic acts getting more complex and linked with the past. The plot is however a bit shallow, from the reason for bringing the main characters back to their own town, Ninavel, despite the obvious dangers to them and their captors, to the occurrence of a global all-threatening danger, (spoiler!) to the final battle temporarily eliminating the vector if not the source of the danger, to the convenient re-apparition of Dev’s former love with a final twist… It nonetheless reads well and paves the way to the third volume in the series, currently in the writing. Looking around at others’ reviews of The tainted city, I could not find any negative one, with every critic praising the second volume above the first one. A point with which I obviously concur.

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