The Monstrous Citadel: A fun, lively summer read

The Monstrous Citadel by Mirah Bolender science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Monstrous Citadel by Mirah Bolender science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Monstrous Citadel by Mirah Bolender

2019’s The Monstrous Citadel is the second book in Mirah Bolender’s fantasy trilogy THE CHRONICLES OF AMICAE. This review may contain mild spoilers for the first book, City of Broken Magic. In this world, the main characters, called Sweepers, function like the people in an old British series called UXB, disarming undetonated magical weapons left over from an ancient war. Some of the magical infestations are like Japanese kaiju, and all require confinement in some kind of container.

Laura and Okane are Sweepers in Amicae, trained under the eccentric and controversial Sweeper Clae Sinclair. In the aftermath of City of Broken Magic, Laura Kramer, who was briefly elevated to the position of Head Sweeper, has been demoted once again. The city council, which withheld the truth about the magical infestations from the public in the first book, have hired a Sweeper from another city, Juliana MacDaniels, for the position of Head Sweeper. Laura and Okane both know that the danger they and Clae uncovered before his death has not been eradicated, and the aggressive city of Rex is another danger Amicae faces. Laura is frustrated that she can’t get anyone to listen to her.

Bolender’s world is jam-packed. In addition to the city council’s willful state of denial, there is corruption among the Sweepers in other cities, betrayal and lies close to home, and the continued threat of gang wars. New elements are added, with the introduction of Magi, magical kinsmen of Okane who are viewed with suspicion by the humans and by Okane himself, and a series of very different infestations which indicate a change, for the worse, in the magic.

Chronicles of AmicaeLaura and Okane are outsiders and underdogs, constantly being underestimated and dismissed. Bolender exploits this trope to the max, and to good effect here, especially as we meet more allies of the beleaguered pair.

In The Monstrous Citadel, we learn more about the magical substance Kin, which is needed to fight the infestations. The city of Rex plays a larger role in the story, as Laura and Okane have to go there to retrieve their Kin, which was stolen. We also meet a pair of trackers, Grim and Cherry, who are interesting people with their own secrets. Laura encounters a mysterious woman in Rex who definitely has her own agenda. The new characters, and a plot element introduced late in the book, promise a lot of excitement for the next book in the series.

As with The City of Broken Magic, I found the battles with the infestations to be very similar to one another, and in a couple of places, things seemed easier than they really should have been. Laura and Okane discover a secret armory left by Clae, which is difficult to get into. Later in the book, off the page, it is easily robbed, and I didn’t understand how that happened. Later, when Laura and Okane are escaping from Rex, a certain section seemed to go with unbelievable ease, considering the size and weight of the object they were trying to sneak out. In spite of those observations, The Monstrous Citadel, like City of Broken Magic, is a fun, exciting adventure. This will be a fun summer read.

Published in 2019. The Monstrous Citadel is the sequel to Mirah Bolender’s City of Broken Magic—a fast-paced, adventure fantasy where a bomb squad defuses the magic weapons of a long forgotten war. Amicae, City of Sweepers, survived the Falling Infestation which nearly destroyed it thanks to the efforts of Laura and Okane. While the ancient monsters have been beaten back for the moment, new and more monstrous dangers face them in the form of belligerent bureaucracy, dangerous gangs, grasping Sweepers bent on personal glory . . . And Rex, the City of Kings, who breed their own kind of monstrosity. Laura and Okane must go to Rex to reclaim the secret weaponry that keeps Amicae safe and come face to face with a horrifying truth about the Rex and their designs on all of Orien’s cities.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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