The city is crumbling. Clouds over Nowy Solum have not parted in a hundred years. Gods have deserted their temples. In the last days of a dying city, the decadent chatelaine chooses a forbidden lover, separating twin outcasts and setting them on independent trajectories that might finally bring down the palace. Then, screaming from the skies, a lone god reappears and a limbless prophet is carried through South Gate, into Nowy Solum, with a message for all: beyond the city, something ancient and monumental has come awake.
In this ambitious novel, Hayward (Filaria) traces the lives of the eccentric, often grotesque characters who inhabit the ancient, labyrinthine city of Nowy Solum. The aging chatelaine devotes more time to her multiple sexual partners and her pets than to the city she rules. Her father, the castellan, amuses himself by torturing sentient animals. The fecund, a monstrous being imprisoned in the city's depths, philosophizes and bears equally monstrous children for the chatelaine's cages. When the chatelaine upsets the social order by taking in Octavia, an ostracized child born with syruplike melancholy in her veins rather than blood, she begins a slow cascade of events that sends the city hurtling toward destruction. Beautifully written and morally ambivalent, this complex tale will appeal to readers of Gene Wolfe and China Mi ville.