Review: The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney

The Golden City
The Golden City


The Golden City
by J. Kathleen Cheney
Series: The Golden City, Book 1
Genre: Historic Fantasy
Published by Roc Trade, 2013
E-book, Purchased
384 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores….

When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana’s heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch her only friend die.

Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.

Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone….

She paused at the landing, her stomach churning. Was that what she was doing? Hunting a necromancer?

If so, she had wandered into a shiver of sharks.


He was a well-made man, athletic and lean. Oriana found herself staring at his back, weighing whether the lack of a dorsal stripe detracted from its attractiveness. No it doesn’t. There was something fascinating about that span of monochromatic skin.


  • The setting is in a fantasy, historic (1902) Portugal. So nice to have such a different setting.
  • I like how seamlessly the magic is sewn into Portugal.  It is part of life as much as electricity would be.
  • The selkies and sereia (sirens) are depicted so well. They are very different from each other even though they both live in the water some of the time.
  • I like the intrigue and mystery in this book.
  • This is not a light-hearted fantasy. People die, are threatened and must fight for their lives.
  • What we find out about the culture of the sirens is very interesting. Dorsal stripes are important!
  • For that matter, the selkies are really interesting, too.
  • There’s attraction between Oriana and Duilio, but that’s as far as it goes. I like that…especially in the first book of a fantasy series. I’m not averse to a relationship between characters, but I don’t like it overpowering the story.
  • I like Oriana. She’s spying on the Portuguese and has secrets. She discovers spying is sometimes a sordid and corrupt occupation. She has to decide how she feels about that.
  • Duilio is also very interesting. He has had to come home to Portugal after his father and brother die within a few months of each other. He lives with his mother, is a noble Portuguese and has a number of secrets, but he is also honorable and brave.
  • Duilio’s half-brother Erdano and his cousin Joaquim are both very compelling characters as is Duilio’s mother.


  • I tried to think of things I didn’t like or that didn’t work for me, but really I have none!

And a few thoughts

  • I loved this book. The setting, characters and plot all work very well for me.
  • The second book–The Seat of Magic–came out the first of July so I’m hoping to read it soon!
  • Mogsy from The Bibiliosanctum has a guest post from author J. Kathleen Cheney after the second book was published. I love getting some background info.
  • Another guest post from Ms. Cheney at Tabitha’s Not Yet Read blog. About selkies, sirens and more…LOL You don’t want to miss either of these blog posts!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Review: The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

I’m participating in the Book Bingo Challenge. This book is part of a series so will go into the series square!

the-wild-waysThe Wild Ways
by Tanya Huff
Series: Gale Women #2
Genre: Fantasy
Published by DAW, 2011
E-book, Library
295 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Charlie Gale heads east to join a Celtic band on the summer circuit, but faces Aunt Catherine instead. An offshore oil-drilling company hired Catherine to steal Selkies’ sealskins. Charlie must teach being Wild to Jack – a Dragon Prince trying to be a real boy – and commit corporate espionage with a sobbing seal-wife and every fiddle player in Nova Scotia.

“I thought she’d think she was winning and she’d tell me where the skins were.”

“Seriously?” Jack sputtered, spraying the table with sesame seeds. “You’ve never actually had enemies, have you?”

What worked for me:

  • I liked all the music in this book. When the book begins Charlie is playing in a country band, but then her old Celtic group from Nova Scotia asks her to come back to play in the summer festival season. Charlie plays the guitar and sings, but there are lots of fiddlers in the book, too!
  • Music is Charlie’s power.
  • All the music in the book reminded me a little of War for the Oaks by Emma Bull.
  • The setting is mostly in Nova Scotia in Canada which is unusual and interesting.
  • The selkies are great characters!
  • Jack–the Dragon Prince–is a lot of fun as he tries to figure out how to be a boy and remember he can’t eat everything in this reality.
  • Charlie has been floating through life, but during her time in Nova Scotia she must decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

What didn’t work:

  • The ending was kind of flat. It seemed to end very quickly after a fairly leisurely book.
  • I wanted to find out what happened to Amelia Carlson!

My thoughts:

Tanya Huff is one of my favorite fantasy and science fiction authors. I loved the first book–The Magic Emporium–but this book seems a little more aloof. I really like Charlie, but she is harder to get to know than Allie was in the first book.

The Magic Emporium has quite a bit of romance in it. I don’t want the romance to be the focus, but I would have liked a little romance for Charlie! However, I like this book a lot. It’s just quite a bit different from the first book. The third book in this series (The Future Falls) is due to come out in November 2014 and I’ll look forward to more about the Gale family.

The link below goes to an interview with Tanya Huff. I was sad to see she reiterates once again, “The Silvered is and always was intended to be a standalone. Nothing more coming, that story is told.” However, there will be more in the Torin Kerr world!

  • Sex elves and AD&D: An interview with Tanya Huff