Review: “Ninth City Burning,” J. Patrick Black

Pros: Wonderful characters
Cons: Want to know more about what they’re fighting; time differences should produce more change?
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

J. Patrick Black’s Ninth City Burning is a fascinating look at a war between forces from two different worlds/dimensions/etc. Certain elements stay the same–each side has ‘fontani’, which is a person who generates the power other people need to work “thelemity,” a force that powers many of the machines and people needed for the war. Our home dimension is called “Hestia,” and there are aliens trying to break through and defeat us. A group of wanderers is more-or-less tricked into joining the armies of Hestia, but soon even they come to realize that what they’re doing is important and needed.

 

One of Hestia’s oddities is that time moves much faster there than in any other dimension they’ve found. So they should be years ahead of anyone–it’s a truism that no one ever returns from the front lines of the battle because once they go through the Veil time passes so much more slowly than it did at home. This disparity should be pushing innovating years and years beyond the aliens (called ‘the Valentines’ because they invaded on Valentine’s Day). I don’t understand why we aren’t handily winning this war. There are a number of other things as well that seem to not match up with the disparity in the movement in time. It feels like someone needed a reason for X and then failed to fully take into account the changes it would make to the book.

The characters in Ninth City Burning are fantastic. Each chapter posts its point-of-view character in bold letters at the top, so it’s easy to know who you’re currently following. Also, the characters have wonderful detail and chemistry to them. Watching them grow and change was my favorite part of the book. Normally I have a lot of trouble keeping up in books that have a lot of characters, but it worked in this case, which was pretty impressive. The characters are definitely the best part of Ninth City Burning.

I wish we understood more about thelemity. I’m having trouble grasping the boundaries on how it does and doesn’t do things, and how it gets transformed into actual results. It feels like science fantasy–i.e., an attempt to provide sci-fi but doing it through devices that might as well be magic.

Oh, one thing I didn’t like–the constant endnotes. They’re just so… unnecessary.

 
NOTE: Free book provided by publisher in return for review
Expected publication date: September 6, 2016

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