The Tangled Lands is made up of four distinct short stories, tied together by a common land and a common problem. Calling The Tangled Lands a novel is a bit misleading and left me somewhat disappointed in the end result.
From award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell comes a fantasy novel told in four parts about a land crippled by the use of magic, and a tyrant who is trying to rebuild an empire—unless the people find a way to resist.
Khaim, The Blue City, is the last remaining city in a crumbled empire that overly relied upon magic until it became toxic. It is run by a tyrant known as The Jolly Mayor and his devious right hand, the last archmage in the world. Together they try to collect all the magic for themselves so they can control the citizens of the city. But when their decadence reaches new heights and begins to destroy the environment, the people stage an uprising to stop them.
In four interrelated parts, The Tangled Lands is an evocative and epic story of resistance and heroic sacrifice in the twisted remains surrounding the last great city of Khaim. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell have created a fantasy for our times about a decadent and rotting empire facing environmental collapse from within—and yet hope emerges from unlikely places with women warriors and alchemical solutions.
The four stories are loosely tied together by place and problem, but not character. Each story has distinct characters, and while each story was very good, the overall novel doesn’t seem to have accomplished much. At the end of the book, I was a little let down. Each story contained loss and victories, but those losses and victories didn’t seem to add up to a cumulative effect.
My issue with the structure aside, the stories were well written and fit together thematically and in style.
The idea of an environmental effect from the use of magic is an interesting metaphor for energy usage in the world today. The use of magic creates bramble infestations in the world, and bramble is a nasty, murderous plant that kills those that it touches. Small magics hinder larger magics because the effect is compounded. This is a thoughtful and powerful comparison to using energy that doesn’t come from “clean” sources. The more we use “unclean” energy, the more damage we do to our environment and eventually what we’re left with will be deadly and have a devastating effect on our world.
The Tangled Lands hits shelves February 27, 2018.
I received an eARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.