I finished this book yesterday and since then I've been trying to figure out why I found it so unsatisfying, in spite of the excellent writing. Now I think I have it: the characters never change. The writing is beautiful and it paints such a vivid picture of a fantastic city full of wonders, but none of these wonders impact the characters. They are the same people at the end of the story as they were at the beginning. While these wonders are taking place, the emotional impact they have (if any) on the characters is fleeting. It's really frustrating and it left me wondering what the point of the book was.
I picked up this book because I had read reviews that recommended it for fans of China Mieville. While I can't really see much of a similarity in the two authors' writing styles, I did definitely like The Etched City very very much. I'm impressed that it's a first novel (and disappointed that there's not yet any more books by Bishop to read!) I hope she's busy writing right now!
The Etched City is the story of two ex-mercenaries, companions who life threw together - but who are two very different people. Both escape the dusty desert, one step ahead of trouble, seeking somethng better. Raule becomes a doctor to the poor, while Gwynn ends up as man-at-arms to a ruthless slaver. However, their personalities are not as black-and-white as their professions might indicate - although they are not necessarily friends. Raule knws she is emotionally damaged, and is weirdly drawn to collecting deformed fetuses... whle Gwynn quests after a mysterious artist of unearthly beauty, and becomed divided between her and the unsavory work he does... The Etched City doesn't have a strictly delineated plot, but its variegated threads weave themselves together wonderfully.
Complex, dark, and gritty, with moments of brilliant surreality, discursions on the topics of art and religion, love and compassion... I can only hope for more like this!
Wonderful story about rebels on the run through a haunting world. Atmospheric and weird in a good way.
This was a good depiction of a world in which the fantastical becomes real. I liked the interactions between the characters, especially Gwynn and the Rev.