At the beginning of Savage City, Talia dies. As she dies, she finds herself being pulled somewhere, where she almost dies again. Talia has been brought from one parallel universe to another.
Very quickly we learn that the world Talia finds herself in is brutal. It kind of looks like San Francisco, Talia’s home, but not really. There’s a brutal war between the shape-shifting Nimali and the Fai, who have abilities, but don’t shift. Talia looks like the missing daughter of the Nimali King, Princess Celena. The Nimali King, Lyal, looks like her father, a man who raised her reluctantly and without enthusiasm. Talia is thrown into the middle of a story that she doesn’t understand. It is familiar and unfamiliar and all very deadly.
Talia is clued in to the wrongness of the world when she finds out that some of the people around her are slaves. When she meets Lyal we see part of what will drive Talia’s conflict. A man who looks like her father is happy to see her and embraces her with love – the one thing she always wanted and never got. And then he forces a woman to commit an act of brutality and consigns her to the wastelands for doing what he forced her to do. Talia is understandably terrified and we, the readers, know she is in grave danger.
Savage City is the first in a series and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. So much of what I want to talk about is best discovered in reading and not from a review. I will say two things about this alternate universe fantasy. One, the underlying conflict is between a society built around extraction and society built around conservation. The other is that I have never liked the fated mates trope, but L. Penelope uses a variation on it incredibly well. And a third thing – there are dragons.
It is a brutal read with a constant threat of violence, and a lot of on-page violence. L. Penelope has a firm hand on material that could go sideways badly in the wrong hands. Her depictions of brutality and humanity are visceral and kept me on the knife edge every time I picked up the book.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Heartspell Media via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.