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City of Last Chances (The Tyrant Philosophers)

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Yasnic; a beggar priest of a dying religion. He is the last believer in a God that appears only to the faithful. The God in question is a withered little gnome of a deity that is constantly demanding alms of his only remaining priest.

Spark of the Rebellion: After Ivarn tries to return secretly to the Gownhall and has to be saved by Shantrov and other students from soldiers, the students fortify the Gownhall Square, the Siblingries strike and begin marching in support of them, and the Vultures use the chaos to loot and burn as much Palleseen property as they can find. Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the book, hundreds of people are dead, including several people the characters knew, Shantrov and Lemya are both changed forever by the Reproach, and the Palleseen are still in control of the city. On the other hand, the Gownhall is allowed to remain open because the Palleseen need its knowledge, the Reproach finally finds a measure of peace, the Donjon's records have been destroyed and its prisoners freed, and the many worship-deprived gods of Ilmar are being tended to by Yasnic, leading to a small-scale religious revival. Gambit Pileup: After the death of Sage-Archivist Ochelby, every faction in the city tries to take advantage of the situation, try to hunt down their rivals, or uncover who stole the Archivist's priceless, protective Anchorwood charm. This eventually culminates in the Spark of the Rebellion. There are two superbly unique regions of the city that really help emphasise the story’s themes of colonisation and cultural decay, that being the Anchorwood and the Reproach. If you are in the market for a superbly written, complex and intricately woven standalone fantasy, with a large cast of stand-out characters, world-building that is metered out at a brilliant pace and a plot that will keep you effortlessly intrigued throughout, then this will be one to read.


A wonderful twisty stew of a book with a cast of fascinating characters, set against the brilliantly realized city of Ilmar.' Django Wexler Magic Knight: Possibly more of a Magic WWI Soldier, but Hellgram employs both a conjured sword and spellcasting alongside his physical strength, a combination that makes him the best human(oid) fighter in Ilmar. City of Last Chances is a standalone novel by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The book explores the city and factions of the city of Ilmar, occupied three years ago by the Palleseen Sway, an all-conquering empire that seeks to “perfect” the world-and, with its control over Ilmar, potentially many worlds. For on Ilmar’s edge lies the Anchorwood, a grove of trees that, when the moon is full, becomes a gateway to distant, alien lands. Approximately every 8-10 chapters, there is a Mosaic chapter, which I would describe as a city-eyed view of happenings: summarising what is taking place throughout many areas of the city at the given time. As City of Last Chances progresses, we're updated regarding the potential revolution that is stirring underneath the surface: who will light the fuse, will the Palleseen military be prepared, what will the consequences be and what part will the supernatural elements of the city play? But the old ways and beliefs have a habit of perpetuating and there’s an ancient power to those customs that the Pallssen covet, as they do all power.

City of Last Chancesis a somewhat complex book. It tells the story of Ilmar, a city chafing under the occupation of an invading Palleseen force for the last three years. A city of many factions, for the occupation, against it, neutral and just... otherwise engaged. A city of various magics, both familiar and strange. A city of mysteries. A city of immigrants and occupiers and rich and poor and workers and feudal overlords and scholars and priests and gods and all manner of people in between... and all of whom are connected by threads of politics and obligation and camaraderie and rivalry and the shared experience of being in this city, at this time, under this regime.

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And you have a mysterious Wood on the edge of the city. Sometimes it’s just a stand of trees you can cross in a few strides. But other times it becomes a vast and mysterious forest, and a path to … elsewhere. If you have the right protections that will let you past the monstrous guardians. Our story begins when the #2 of the occupiers sets out to cross the Wood (because whatever is on the other side could undoubtedly do with some good old fashioned perfecting), yet the magical totem that will let him pass has been mysteriously stolen, with unfortunate consequences for him. We witness happenings that relate to the criminal underworld, academia, workers and demons, refugees and outsiders, forgotten gods, and magical artefacts from a wide range of perspectives. Ilmar is the novel’s main character though, and this includes distinct and atmospheric areas such as The Reproach, The Hammer Districts, and The Anchorage. I found The Reproach to be a haunting and intensely interesting part of the city and I adored my time reading about that area and its inhabitants most of all. It’s not a place to see through any kind of rosy shades. It touches on colonialism and oppression, exploitation and subjugation, naive youthful fervor and cynical calculated greed. It won’t give you the well-deserved feel-good moments of triumph of the good and comeuppance for the bad, or the bright future following some glorious Revolution. Tchaikovsky seems more of a realist than an optimist here, although there is a bit of dark humor at times. Pyrrhic Victory: The rebellion ultimately turns out to be one of these for the Pals. They succeed in putting down the students' revolt and the Siblingries' march, but they lose a lot of their men to the students, the Siblingries and the Reproach with little chance of getting replacements in the near future, the factories that produce materials for their war efforts are going to be out of commission for a long while, and the wider resistance movement of Telmark still exists. Body Surf: The reason why no-one ever kills an Indweller. The other Indwellers will demand compensation through someone else, preferably the slain Indweller's killer, wearing the dead Indweller's mask, which causes the Indweller's spirit to possess the new body.

Yes, I know that what I'm describing is just a multi-POV novel. However, it really does feel like each chapter is a short story, and I think that's the correct expectation to have. If you're expecting a novel, you're probably going to be disappointed. If you're expecting a collecting of highly interconnected short stories, you might just have a great time.) Besides these overt prejudices, the resistance also has its blind spots. One of my favorite moments is when we learn that the laborers, whom we’ve been conditioned to root for, are themselves oppressors, as what runs their mills are magically enslaved demons. And so we get sharply moving passages like this: This book has a lot of characters, and I mean a lot. Each chapter is told from a different perspective and each citizen of Ilmar help to build upon a larger story which all cleverly comes together by the end. Whilst I absolutely loved the premise of this and the fact that Tchaikovsky uses a tapestry form of narrative, I unfortunately struggled with the characters. I found many of them unmemorable and the few which I did find fascinating didn’t appear often enough for me to really learn significantly more about them. I’m the kind of reader who generally does love a large cast of characters, but I need them to hold depth and have distinct enough voices for me to be able to recognise who they are. Structure is not often the thing that I highlight when discussing fantasy novels, but Tchaikovsky has created a genuinely different take than I have read before. The book starts with a few characters being introduced, but then you start to realise that the chapters keep moving on to new people. We are told the story of Ilmar, not from the perspective of the individual, but the city as a whole. It is like Tchaikovsky has a beam that focuses on one person and then leaps across the city to another, always moving on to the next location with each new chapter. The city and it’s people are walking the line between total assimilation into the “Palleseen Sway” and all-out riots-in-the-streets revolution.Magically-Binding Contract: The method by which demons are bound, which in the modern, industrial era has gone from a close, personal relationship between summoner and demon to an efficient process, in which the services of enslaved demons are sold en masse to humans by the Kings Below for industrial labor. Hot as Hell: The circle houses are Allorwen brothels specializing in this; their human workers are able to summon demons who customers can sleep with. The arrest of a professor at the university and the frantic search for the missing ward by both the Palleseen and the various gamblers sets off the simmering tensions in the city: 1) Students in the university want to make stories and rousing words of professors a reality and take an actual stand against their oppressors. 2) The Ilmar factory workers are getting increasingly fed up, while the wealthy families of the city are scared the workers will become violent (after they’ve been oppressing them for years.) All these situations begin snowballing into bigger calamities, haphazard plots, barricades, arrests, shootings and deaths. The Siblingries, factory workers who banded together first to resist the power of the Armiger factory owners. The Ilmari intolerance for their occupiers sparks with every tighten of the thumbscrew and surely the sparks will ignite soon.

Ilmar is vividly alive with ideas, conflicts, and a sense of its own history – a truly breathtaking fantasy city, down every street a compelling story.' David Towsey The Herons, river smugglers who bring weapons into the city from the surrounding country, and who get refugees out. Tchaikovsky's prose is a thing of beauty. It's dense but managed to transport me in the setting. The action scenes, the magical horror scenes and the richness of the inhabitants of this world left me many times in awe. He's clearly an author with a very rich imagination and very talented with words.


Ruslav; a street thug of moderate renown. His character undergoes multiple huge changes over the course of the story, and despite his straight forward set up, he became one of the most unique and nuanced characters of the book. Ilmar has been known by many names, but most know it now as the City of Last Chances – and Adrian Tchaikovsky has woven it a tale of that and so much more. Eldritch Location: The Anchorwood definitely counts, being a Portal Crossroad World filled with bizarre armored fish-headed monsters who eat anyone who enters with a protective "passport".

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