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Monday, June 24, 2019

Ioth, City Of Lights by D. P. Woolliscroft (reviewed by Justin Bergman)

Official Author Website
Pre-order Ioth, City of Lights over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kingshold

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Born in Derby in England, on the day before mid-summers day, David Peter Woolliscroft was very nearly magical. If only his dear old mum could have held on for another day. But magic called out to him over the years, with a many a book being devoured for its arcane properties. David studied Accounting at Cardiff University where numbers weaved their own kind of magic and he has since been a successful business leader in the intervening twenty years.

Adventures have been had. More books devoured and then one day, he had read enough where the ideas he had kept bottled up needed a release valve. And thus, rising out of the self doubt like a phoenix at a clicky keyboard, a writer was born. The Wildfire Cycle is David's debut series.

He is married to his wife Haneen and has a daughter Liberty, who all live with their mini golden-doodle Rosie in Princeton NJ. David is one of the few crabs to escape the crab pot.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Be careful what you strive for.

The people won and now Mareth is Lord Protector of Edland. But winning an election is a lot different than governing a country, especially when the empire of Pyrfew is expanding into the Sapphire Sea. In the interests of peace, Mareth must dispatch Alana to Ioth, city of a thousand lights, to convince the ruling merchants to turn their back on the empire. Neenahwi, armed with the knowledge revealed to her in her coming of age ceremony, desperately wants to determine Pyrfew's plans and to take the fight to the emperor. But Llewdon, ancient elven emperor of Pyrfew, has had decades to develop his schemes and his agents are embedded in the least expected places. Everything seems to revolve around the disappearance of Jyuth's master a millennia ago.

Will the heroes of Kingshold be able to survive fire belching ships, strange slimes, sinister doppelgängers, demon dogs, greedy merchants and past vices to lead Edland to safety?

Following on from Kingshold and Tales of Kingshold, read the much anticipated next chapter in the Wildfire Cycle, compared to Michael J. Sullivan, Brett Sanderson and Daniel Abraham.

FORMAT/INFO: Ioth, City of Lights is 531 pages divided over 45 numbered and titled chapters across three parts, and an epilogue, and is the second full-length entry in The Wildfire Cycle series. The book is currently available for pre-order in e-book format, and will also be available in paperback format on its publication day. It is scheduled to be self-published by the author on June 20, 2019. Cover art and design by Jeff Brown.

CLASSIFICATION: Epic fantasy, Political fantasy

"Today was to be a day for them to stand in the wind and take the storm's fury."
Several months after the election, the victors are beginning to settle into their roles in the realm's new regime, however, unrest still remains in the city of Kingshold, while promises made have yet to be delivered upon. Across the Sapphire Sea, the real threat is taking root in Ioth, as Pyrfew soldiers flood the streets and waterways, their intentions unknown. In an attempt to gather information, as well as broker peace, the Lord Protector sends a trusted team to deliberate and compromise with the political and spiritual leaders of the City of Lights, hoping to prevent this potential danger from spreading. Secrets unravel, battles are fought, and unlikely heroes emerge, but is it enough to thwart the designs of an ancient Emperor?

Ioth, City of Lights is the second full-length installment in Woolliscroft's The Wildfire Cycle series, and it takes everything we've come to know and love from Kingshold and expands upon it in ways I didn't think possible. While book one mainly focuses on events that affect one city, this book stretches its fingers across the Sapphire Sea, into neighboring Redpool and Ioth, with flashes of insight into the Pyrfew societal structure, as well. Presented with nail-biting action and utterly heartbreaking loss, we witness the true might of the enemy at last. Much like its predecessor, Ioth tackles the plagues of unbalanced power and corruption, but on a much broader scale, affecting larger societies, and in more profound ways. It focuses on the issues faced when not allowing all tiers of the populace a voice, and how the arrogance and greed of those at the top can only lead to one possible outcome: devastation and ruin.

Another recurring theme throughout is the refusal to adhere to blind, and oftentimes misplaced, faith. Rather than following the flock, sometimes it is best to step back and question the destination, as it's possible the thing you're so intent on following may be straying far from its true intended path. And finally, it builds upon the bonds of brotherhood and camaraderie, and the difficult choices made in the name of the greater good.

The story is broken up into three parts, each generally taking place in a different part of The Jeweled Continent. While part one, set in Redpool, acts as a precursor of what's to come, and part two, set in Kingshold, allows us to further investigate the courtly intrigue post election, part three transports us to the City of Lights, a Venetian-inspired metropolitan of winding streets, canals laden with vessels, and whitewashed buildings. As with Kingshold, Ioth is so finely crafted, down to the most minute detail. Each district named for the things they are known for producing or putting on display, such as the Brass Isle or the Isle of Flowers. The Sanctum of Arloth; five shards reaching towards the heavens, one tipped in fiery gold - the Finger of Arloth. The ramshackle and dangerously soaring towers and promenades of The Ladders, home to the misfortuned poor. The striking columns and seemingly impossible ceilings of the Palazzo Confluens, seat of the ruling Assembly. Villas and storefronts and market stalls at every turn. The more we wander around the city, the more grand it becomes, and although led by several corrupt officials, I wish I could've kept exploring all the nooks and crannies to find what else Ioth has to offer.
"Why don't you go and find a book and a quiet place to read?"
Ioth is also a story that highlights the metamorphoses of several of the key characters we've been previously acquainted with. A bard becoming ruler, once only caring for himself, and now fighting for the safety of all his constituents. A maid promoted to Ambassador, unsure in her abilities, but more capable than anyone could've ever imagined. The adopted daughter of the founder of Edland, now one of the nation's most formidable mages with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Mercenaries and assassins hired for legitimate stately purposes. In addition, many new characters that we've met in Tales of Kingshold make their first appearances in the precarious game being played by the world's most influential super powers.

Character dynamics play a crucial role in the development of all, and for fear of spoiling, I'll let you discover this on your own. We finally get a glimpse of the true threat as Ioth streets are surging with the green and gold of Pyrfew soldiers, and the appearance of the Bird Man, gigantic eagle in tow, and his jester-like accomplices. We get but a taste, but are definitely left with a lasting impression.

It's impossible to discuss this book without mentioning the insanely intense and enthralling action encountered throughout. Fire-breathing ships, arcane and chemically induced magics, invisible towers guarded by mysterious, murderous goop, it has it all. Skirmishes are described in such vivid detail, you feel as though you're right alongside Motega, Trypp, and Florian, dodging bolts and attempting to keep your footing on blood-slicked ground, or fighting back-to-back with Alana as assassins appear over balconies railings. Our heroes seem incapable of catching a break, and they're met with conflict around each and every corner, whether head-on by city guardsmen, or sinister troubles from within the shadows. And during each, you're on the edge of your seat, hoping to see your beloved favorites emerge unscathed.

Ioth, City of Lights is a wildly emotional and compelling ride, and Woolliscroft's best yet. The foreshadowing throughout the book hints at something monumental, but let me tell you, it's so much more than I expected, leaving me utterly slack-jawed at the final page. As we travel across The Jeweled Continent, my commitment to and adoration of The Wildfire Cycle continues to grow exponentially, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. I must point out that if you haven't read Tales of Kingshold before giving this one a try, you're doing yourself an extreme disservice, so get on that! For those of you that have yet to begin this incredible series, now is the perfect time to dive right in, and for those who are patiently awaiting Ioth, prepare yourselves for one thrilling adventure! I highly recommend.



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