After yesterday’s review of The Impossible Contract, let’s carry on straight away with the conclusion to this series, The Unconquered City!
Book: The Unconquered City by KA Doore
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided free of charge via NetGalley. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Blood and blood magic, violence, depiction of injuries, major character death.
First things first, The Unconquered City is much more of a direct sequel than The Impossible Contract was – where those two could be read in either order, with cameos from each book appearing in the other, this story is set seven years later and wraps up the storylines for everyone. We follow Illi, a new viewpoint character, but both Amastan and Thana (our previous main characters) play a large role in the climax of the book, so it’s pretty necessary to have read their books first. That being said, I think this still has a fairly self-contained plot, so don’t worry if you don’t remember everything, as this has its own satisfying and full arc both in terms of plot and Illi’s character.
Illi is a great main character, and I think her combination of self-confidence and self-doubt will ring true for a lot of readers. She’s part of the same assassin family as Amastan and Thana, but after the events of previous books, they no longer take contracts on people, but instead work to protect Ghadid from the guul, dangerous monsters that stalk the sands. As well as her assassin training, she’s also apprentice to Heru, who was central in The Impossible Contract, and now lives in the city working on magical experiments. I loved seeing previous characters return a little older and wiser – they feel true to themselves, but also believably aged. I particularly liked seeing a different side of Heru – as Illi’s employer, he has almost none of the banter with her that he did with Thana, so it was interesting comparing the two different views of him. The characters are a real strong point of this series as a whole!
The Unconquered City is a little more serious than the previous two books, with very impressive high stakes, but it still manages to keep that fun, high-energy spirit going. These books feel like really classic adventures, full of mystery, fights, captures, escapes and magic – they’re really great to just get lost in for an afternoon. Plus, we get another well-written queer romance, this time between Illi and a non-binary guard, Canthem – it’s great to see their identity stated clearly and fully accepted on the page. I love the queer-norm world of Ghadid! It’s so refreshing not to have to worry (especially in fantasy where the author has so much control over society’s thoughts), about anything homophobic coming up, and just relax into the story.
I don’t think this is my favourite of the series (The Perfect Assassin is just too perfect!), but it’s a fantastic wrap up of everything that’s come before, and a really entertaining read in its own right. Four and a half out of five cats!