Friday 4 May 2018


(March 2018)

A spy and a love story in three acts, of which the middle one is excellent, the first is an excessively detailed infodump, and the third is a little too bleak for its own good. All this adds up to a good book that needs, but repays (but then reclaims), quite a bit of patience.

Amberlough City is the capital of the self-named region that surrounds it, one of the four semi-autonomous states of the federation of Gedda. It’s a playground for what, in our world at least, we might label Jazz Age hedonism, and we explore it through the eyes of Cordelia Lehane, a burlesque dancer, Aristide Makricosta, her part-time MC and a full-time smuggler, and Cyril DePaul, his lover and a spy. Over the course of the first act it’s revealed that the far-right Ospie party is rising to power in one of Amberlough’s sister-states, and Cyril is dispatched in order to subvert their planned theft of the election. It goes wrong in a way I’m still not entirely sure about. In fact I’m not entirely sure about a lot of things, exactly, but it all (eventually) clicks into place when you realize that the Ospies are the Nazis and Gedda is a simplified version of 1920s Europe. The middle section of the book takes us on a rollicking gallop through a city in the throes of occupation, and it closes in a frankly distressing manner as the noose tightens around our three leads and all that they love.