The City is ancient, layers upon layers. Once a thriving metropolis, it sprawled beyond its bounds, inciting endless wars and creating a barren wasteland of what was once green and productive.
In the center of the City lives the emperor, a man in his prime though he should be very old. Some grimly speculate that he is no longer human, if he ever was. A small number have come to the desperate conclusion that the only way to stop the war is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.
From the mazelike sewers below the City to the blood-soaked fields of battle, the rebels pin their hopes on one man—Shuskara. The emperor’s former general, he was betrayed long ago and is believed to be dead. But he has survived, hiding from his immortal foe. The time has come for him to engage in one final battle to free the City from the creature who dwells at its heart, pulling the strings that keep the land drenched in gore.
Gemmell (Troy: Fall of Kings with her late husband, David Gemmell) proves more than capable of standing on her own with this powerful epic fantasy, heavier on combat than on magic. Ten-year-old Elija and his younger sister, Em, have lived in a sewer deep beneath the City for years. In the layers and layers of buildings and streets that were abandoned and then built over, survival is constantly in doubt. (Even in sleep, on the tiny ledge they can call their own, the siblings must stay very still to avoid falling to a watery death.) A devastating flood separates the pair, and Em ends up being reared by an old soldier, Bartellus, who was once a famous general. The plot centers on efforts to overthrow the City's emperor, Araeon, who was responsible for the death of Bartellus's family; now malcontents hope Bartellus will lead their revolt. Richly textured prose and settings distinguish this novel, and fans of grimdark fantasy will hope it spawns many sequels.