City of Lies: 4 reasons this debut should scratch your Game of Thrones itch

1 of 2

Cover to City of Lies by Sam Hawke. Image via Tor.

City of Lies introduces a new writer to the fantasy scene, and Game of Thrones fans will find a lot to enjoy in the new world.

The events of Game of Thrones (and the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire) kick off with a poisoning. Granted, we don’t find that out until midway through the first book and season, but that’s actually the point. Sam Hawke’s debut, City of Lies, sent to me by Tor, cuts out the middleman (or okay, the middle book, if you will) and kicks off with the poisoning.

What follows is a mix of war novel, spy thriller, and high fantasy that should impress fans of the genre (and Game of Thrones in particular).

As a Thrones fan myself, here are the similarities I saw.

Magic that isn’t understood

There are spirits in the world of City of Lies, but many of the main characters have moved past belief in those spirits. Instead, spirits have passed into myth, aside from people who live in the countryside, known as Darfri, who keep traditions alive. Sure, the nobles pay some lip service, but belief doesn’t necessarily go into it.

As a result, when those spirits and those who believe in them come to the city in question, Silasta, the nobles, including our protagonists, have to not only understand what they want, but what they’ve lost. Granted, it’s not the exact same as in A Song of Ice and Fire — where dragons bring magic back to the world — but the idea of legends being more true than one thinks plays with both stories.

Families in conflict

Family matters in City of Lies. That’s putting it mildly. Although the country of Sjona doesn’t follow a patriarchal society pattern — women are the keepers of the bloodlines — who you’re related to matters pretty seriously. Two of our protagonists, Jovan and Kalina, are part of one of the key families, the Oromanis. They’re loyal to the Chancellor and effectively poison-testers. More accurately, Jovan is the latest tester; Kalina is too frail to handle the poisons, but she has strengths of her own.

However, the Oromanis aren’t the only family with which a Chancellor must contend, and the families reach into more than just the upper crusts of society. Cousins to nobles are heads of the guilds, too, meaning that there’s a tangled web of loyalties which Jovan, Kalina, and Tain (the Heir to the chancellery) have to navigate.