Amberlough

Amberlough

Book - 2017
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"Welcome to Amberlough City, the illustrious but corrupt cosmopolitan beacon of Gedda. The radical One State Party--nicknamed the Ospies--is gaining popular support to unite Gedda's four municipal governments under an ironclad, socially conservative vision. Not everyone agrees with the Ospies' philosophy, including master spy Cyril DePaul and his lover Aristide Makricosta, smuggler and emcee at the popular Bumble Bee Cabaret. When Cyril's cover is blown on a mission, however, he must become a turncoat in exchange for his life. Returning to Amberlough under the Ospies' watchful eye, Cyril enters a complex game of deception. One of his concerns is safeguarding Aristide, who refuses to let anyone--the crooked city police or the homophobic Ospies--dictate his life. Enter streetwise Cordelia Lehane, top dancer at the Bee and Aristide's runner, who could be the key to Cyril's plans--if she can be trusted. As the twinkling lights of nightclub marquees yield to the rising flames of a fascist revolution, these three will struggle to survive using whatever means--and people--necessary. Including each other"--
Publisher: New York :, Tor Books,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780765383815
Branch Call Number: FICTION DON
Characteristics: 397 pages ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: Staff picks

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From Library Staff

In this impressive debut novel, we follow the adventures and love lives of a smuggler boss who is also the leading light of the local cabaret, a government spy turned double agent and a burlesque star with a sideline in the black market. The setting is a confederacy of four invented nation-states... Read More »


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NVMercer
Dec 13, 2018

In a ‘20s inspired setting rife with political upheaval and seedy nightlife, intelligence agent Cyril is sent out on one last job that should have been a walk in the park, but goes tits up pretty immediately. Cover blown, he winds up working unwillingly as a double-agent for the ultra conservative One State Party (Ospies). Meanwhile, he tries unsuccessfully to keep his drag queen boyfriend, Aristide, out of the mess. But Aristide does what he wants, worried boyfriends and murderous conservatives be damned!

So he sets Cyril up with a beard: fellow cabaret dancer Cordelia. At first just in it for the money, Cordelia’s character arc is probably my favorite, as she proves herself more than just a pretty face but willing to stand up for herself and what she believes in.

Donnelly has a tendency to infodump at some points in the book, and in the beginning the complicated regional politics can be difficult to follow. But eventually I (mostly) understood the situation and huge cast of characters. Still, it’s some really fascinatingly detailed worldbuilding I can’t help but be impressed by.

The world is colorful and complex and nuanced, and feels very real because of it. The characters are equally so, from the good and pure ginger accountant boy to tall, dark and fabulous Aristide.

If you like political intrigue, spy novels, Moulin Rouge, and/or that Gatsby aesthetic, but without all the usual homophobia and sexism that plague those genres, I would recommend this book. It features a cast that’s diverse in race, gender, gender expression, sexuality, and social class. There’s even happy, healthy polyamory.

But maybe take some notes along the way.

h
heavenne
May 22, 2018

This was the type of book that when I finished it, I had to lie back down and just stare at the ceiling. It was mind blowing. There are layers of intrigue and you don’t watch it unfold, in fact it’s the opposite, you watch it form and develop as the story progresses.

The setting in this one is one of a lot of political instability. It’s explained in the earlier parts of the book. It’s a bit difficult to follow (notes may help some readers) perhaps a character list would help in this case to keep everything straight. A glossary would have helped as well as the characters have their own slang - most of it straight forward but it would help nevertheless. That being said despite these little shortcomings, the world is rich and detailed. Amberlough is decadent and has remnants of Weimar Berlin. Now I did say previously it’s hard to follow because of the slang, but it’s precisely because of this slang that makes the world more detailed and fun to read.

The pace of the plot is slow and steady as it sets up the stage for what would follow after. It is essentially, a spy novel, so it quickly leads to a lot of double dealing, moments of backstabbing and betrayal. There are only three characters that you really need to focus on as the supporting ones just add to the flavor of the novel. Of the three that are central to the plot, one must love Aristide.

With a name like Aristide Makicosta you know he’s going to be a character to remember. He’s flamboyant, street smart and clever. Despite the world burning around him he always manages to do everything in style. It’s hard not to fall for his charms and so you would understand Cyril’s love for him. I still don’t know what to think about Cyril. He was doing the job and had to. It came at a great cost but he had no choice and he had to think for himself (although I know there seems to be a lot of hate for him).

I love Cordelia. She’s got sass, she’s just as street smart and a survivor. Her character development is on point in this book. Yes she may be just a ‘dancer’ but she soon develops into someone with a cause to defend the city she loves. Despite the horrors she goes through in the latter half of the novel, she doesn’t let it break her. It’s admirable and she’s likable not only because of her catchy personality but also because of her unstoppable strength.

That ENDING THOUGH. I felt my eyes grow wide each time I turned the pages throughout the last third of the novel. This was why I had to sit back and just absorb everything I’ve read when I finished this one. It was that good.

Greatly recommended if you like intrigue, a decadent setting, and memorable characters. I absolutely enjoyed this book.

samcmar May 21, 2017

Amberlough was a book I randomly grabbed while I was at this year's OLA Conference. I didn't know much about it, but I found the cover very striking. Cabaret? Spies? Fantasy? LGBT? All checkmarks for things that I love to read about.

What I loved about this book was the world that Donnelly has created. It's got a seediness to it, something that feels so colourful yet vibrant. I really loved the characters, especially Cordelia who is an absolute boss. I also loved Cyril and Ari, and I thought they were such a delightful couple. The characters are just a lot of fun, and they have just enough depth given that this story is more about solving a mystery and dealing with an uncomfortable political atmosphere.

Spy fiction often doesn't get it's due in fantasy, but I love the way in which this book meshes both genres together. This book has both glitter and glamour, but it also has so much discomfort when you start to learn about what the One State Party is after. I felt like the world of Amberlough in itself was a character in the story as well! The world building just really stuck with me as the story progressed, and I knew I was easily along for the ride.

If I have any complaints about this story, it's really that I just didn't want it to end. I was just so completely glued to what I was reading, and I loved following these characters through this vibrant world. This is just a wonderfully impressive first novel, and if you love fantasy that has a very political spin, or you love the glitz of cabaret like I do, then Amberlough is worth your attention.

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