The Bookwyrm's Review of Things They Buried by Amanda K. King & Michael R. Swanson
Authors: Amanda K. King and Michael R. Swanson
Length: 506 Pages
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Ismae Publishing
I was offered a chance to review this book on an open offer for reviews. I hadn't heard of it, but decided the premise looked intriguing, so agreed to review it. I am happy to say it was one of the best decisions of the year. I would have to class this as one of my top ten reads of the last year, and that's a year that included Kings of the Wild, Ravencry, Priest of Bones and Wraith Lord. It's mix of sci-fi, low fantasy and steampunk are seamlessly blended into a story I didn't want to end.
In the island city of Dockhaven, greatest trading city on Ismae, a world where genetic engineering is common but something as common as photography is rare and expensive, children are disappearing, in the same pattern as they did years earlier. This is concerning to Aliara and Sylandair, who recognize the pattern, although it should be impossible, since the source of the original disappearances is supposedly dead. Aliara, thief and assassin, and Sylandair, Duke in another Empire, have a history with that source. Once, they were slaves to brilliant scientist Kluuta Orono, a man who used them for experiments and other more malignant uses. They helped bring him to an end, or so they thought, with the explosion at the desalination plant he was using to cover his experiments.
Going through the ruins of the plant, Aliara and Sylandair, along with their cowardly sometime assistant Schmalch, find the ruins of Orono's secret pleasure rooms, where he entertained the debauched rich of Dockhaven. They don't discover Orono himself, but they run across evidence that he may have survived after all. Barely escaping the underground lair, they make their way back to the surface and begin planning their next moves.
Sylandair decides the best way to find out what happened to Orono is to take his inheritance, which includes Orono's Mansion and grounds, which he had refused in the past. Bringing in a crew, led by an old associate of Aliara's named Haus, to clean out the squatters that had lived there, leads Sylandair, Aliara, Schmalch and Haus's crew into conflict with the hidden residents of the house: Orono's genetically modified monstrosities, who almost succeed in killing them all.
Bringing in an outside doctor, his sister/assistant and their pet monster, to try and find out what Orono was up to after the attack, they discover Orono was trying to use an ancient formula to become immortal. Unfortunately for Orono, he misread what was necessary, and things went very wrong indeed. When Sylandair is mysteriously kidnapped, Aliara, Haus and Schmalch must confront the evil that has him as well as the children. Even if they can get that done, the potential for an even worse evil may have arisen, threatening the whole world.
CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING
Things They Buried is one of those books that combines creative world building with fantastically drawn out characters. Sylandair is the roguish nobleman with a tortured past, but is so much more than that. He has flaws and strengths, and is compelling to read. Aliara is such a strong character, yet vulnerable and flawed as well. She has so many skills, and is death on two legs, and yet her past haunts her to the present. Schmalch is the comic relief, but has surprising depths in a character that could so easily be a parody. The rest of the characters are excellently written as well, even the minor characters. You really get a feeling this is a real place just from interacting with the characters.
The world building is very intricate. You get a sense of Dockhaven as if your walking down the streets yourself. It has such creative elements, with the sci-fi and steampunk elements intermixed with the lowest of fantasy elements in such a way they just fit, even when they shouldn't. It is definitely up there with some of the great fantasy settings.
It's not too often you run across a book that mashes genres together as seamlessly as Things They Buried. It never feels clunky, rushed or forced, and the characters and world building is so solid, you won't want to put the book down. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what comes next in the series, and highly recommend this book.