Published by Saga Press on February 27, 2018
Genres: Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Sexual Content: TW: Reference to rape, child molestation
Reviewed by: Rebecca
Khaim, The Blue City, is the last remaining city in a crumbled empire that overly relied upon magic until it became toxic. It is run by a tyrant known as The Jolly Mayor and his devious right hand, the last archmage in the world. Together they try to collect all the magic for themselves so they can control the citizens of the city. But when their decadence reaches new heights and begins to destroy the environment, the people stage an uprising to stop them.
THE TANGLED LANDS is less a novel, than four interrelated novellas. Each part focuses on different characters working within Khaim, a city covered in deadly thorns and vines due to the overuse of magic. Khaim acts as the main character, setting, and antagonist throughout each novella. In Khaim, magic is deadly but corruption isn’t just found in tangled roots. It’s in the men the who wield power and that people who follow orders unconditionally.
There are no happy endings in Khaim. The lands, the government, and the citizens change as magic is weeded out. My favourite parts of THE TANGLED LANDS were Paolo Bacigalupi’s two stories: The Alchemist and The Children of Khaim. The language is more poetic and the stories are a little slower, focusing more on the small details of the characters. I could have happily read a full novel about The Alchemist and his family.
I wish that more threads had carried through each novella. I wanted The Alchemist and his family to pop up in other stories. Although Tobias Buckell wrote awesome, kickass ladies and referenced back to The Executioness, it would have been amazing to have to two authors weave more of their stories together.
If you’re looking for a complete novel, THE TANGLED LANDS may disappoint you. There’s no solution, no happy ending, life just goes on for these poor characters. If you enjoy anthologies and always wanted something a little more interconnected, THE TANGLED LANDS is a beautiful read with complex magic, complicated characters, and corrupted power.Series Titles:
For other short story collections, check out The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Ann VanderMeer