Smoke and Stone: City of Sacrifice, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
After a cataclysmic war of the gods, the last of humanity huddles in Bastion, a colossal ringed city. Beyond the outermost wall lies an endless desert, haunted by the souls of all the world’s dead.
Trapped in a rigid caste system, Nuru, a young street sorcerer, lives in the outer ring. She dreams of escape and freedom. When something contacts her from beyond the wall, she risks everything and leaps at the opportunity.
Mother Death, a banished god seeking to reclaim her place in Bastion’s patchwork pantheon, has found her way back into the city. Akachi, born to the wealth and splendor of Bastion’s inner rings, is a priest of Cloud Serpent, Lord of the Hunt. A temple-trained sorcerer, he is tasked with bringing peace to the troublesome outer ring.
Drawn into a dark and violent world of assassins, gangs, and street sorcerers, he battles the spreading influence of Mother Death in a desperate attempt to save Bastion.
The gods are, once again, at war.
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|Listening Length||10 hours and 23 minutes|
|Author||Michael R. Fletcher|
|Narrator||Rosa B. Watkinson|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||December 20, 2019|
|Publisher||Michael R. Fletcher|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #133,184 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#4,207 in Epic Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#4,702 in Horror Fiction
#7,607 in Dark Fantasy
Top reviews from the United States
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Fletcher has an enviable knack for creating characters that make us care deeply about them, whilst they commit abominable acts. I was engrossed from chapter one and cannot wait for the follow up to this Grimdark fantasy. A dark fantasy with a dystopian feel unlike any other I’ve read in recent recollection, Fletcher’s ability to create character depth and join it seamlessly to his world building is amazing. Regardless of the violent and dangerous lifestyle and circumstances, every character draws you into their personal hell. The result is that I found this book nearly impossible to put down.
In Smoke and Stone, the city of Bastion is a made in concentric rings, each holding a caste which from wealth grows to utter poverty with each successive ring outward. In reality it’s a huge sacrificial altar to feed the gods. But which gods remain? How many remain forgotten beyond Bastion? Beyond the last wall, where the souls of the dead team in millions? Most importantly, who knows the truth? The street sorcerers or the nahualli of the priests ring? Has Mother Death found a way into Bastion? Will the gods war again?
Something is coming. The narcotics used by all sorcerers, thins the veil, allows them to see portents, and also to become a spirit animal using wooden carvings. They can see the destruction coming, if not clearly, and they fear it greatly.
While simultaneously balancing the sides of the conflict growing in Bastion, and creating emotional hooks, we are kept guessing by the author. We are intrigued by the utter ignorance of oppression and the depravity of wealth. Peoples so downtrodden in slavery, they know nothing of any comforts, even that of the love of their own children. While through a nearby gated wall lies opulence, plenty, and real families. More and more privilege and wealth is found in the rings closet to the center, while the furthest out wallow in ignorance, denied learning and even simple tools.
Smoke and Stone tosses you directly into the strangeness of one world, and the horror of another, through two main POV characters. A poor sorceress and a rich priest of the inner rings. It’s a strange mix of discovery and violence which takes the preconceptions of these characters themselves and turns them upside down. The cast which surround and support them are fleshed out and fascinating. There are no clear cut heroes. Everyone must do what they must to survive and all in Bastion are born into caste system without any aspirations of rising above their station. The poorest know very little or nothing at all of the other rings and those in power intend keep them ignorant. The truth could ignite a rebellion that could kill them all. Or worse.
What Fletcher's achieved here is nothing less than what he usually achieves, which is to punch me in the brain with his visceral worldbuilding. The people feel like if you turned away from the book, they might just leap out. The magic is in-depth and complex, but never over-explained. (Something I always appreciate is when an author assumes the reader is intelligent and capable.) The tension is skillfully ratcheted up until the climax comes crashing down in a crescendo of violence.
But more, Smoke and Stone is a story about people trying to do what they think is best for the people in their care. This isn't the typical nihilism of grimdark, but instead is a story about the pitfalls of desperation, and how it drives good people to step over the line into the grey. If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, Nuru and Akachi certainly have enough bricks for a turnpike.
By the end of the story, I felt something, and it was that thing I'd been missing since reading Empires of Dust. It was the sense of a curtain closing on the first act of an epic tragedy. It's rare these days to step into a novel that feels like it's sweeping you along, holding the sides of your head, and saying "look", "look at this and learn". I can't wait for the rest of the play.
My first (I've been saying that a lot) Michael R Fletcher novel and it was very solid. The story is post apocalyptic with an almost Aztec/Mesopotamian like setting wherein the last city in the world stands with its many ringed classes. At the center of the millennia old city is the center of the gods. Each god fights for supremacy and two sorcerers are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
The world was very unique but the characters were middling. Some of the humor was a bit too childish but these are minor complaints in a solid effort. The sorcery involved the use of narcotics which was a bold choice if not a bit too edge for edginess sake. There were some well realized action pieces and your imagination can run wild in this one.
Top reviews from other countries
This is the best fantasy novel I've read in ages. Different from anything I've read so far (and I've got some decades of reading fantasy under my belt), relatable characters and so so clever. There are so many ties to modern society and it's many problems, it just makes you think, not in an obtrusive, but very subtle way. I don't think I've ever marked any quotes in a fantasy novel, but I did in this one. This author just has a lot of very clever things to say.
I salute you, Michael Fletcher!