Cities and Thrones, Carrie Patel Received to review via Netgalley
Cities and Thrones is a solid follow-up to The Buried Life, expanding the world and giving us a glimpse of the politics at work both in the other cities and the things that motivate the key players of Recoletta. We get a few more glimpses into the Library, and how exactly the underground society of Recoletta came about. If you hadn’t worked it out already, well, this book also gives us more hints about the link between the state of society in Recoletta and the modern day. Some things are not unfamiliar or unusual concepts to us…
Malone continues to be an interesting character, loyal to her city and not bending to politicking. Oh, she’ll take part in an effort to bring the city stability, but ultimately she acts for the good of Recoletta, not to further anyone’s agenda. Not even her own, really: again and again she puts herself at risk. Meanwhile, Jane continues to be a pawn unsure of who exactly is moving her, fighting for autonomy and finding that she only succeeds in getting herself in deeper, and deeper again. I’m not sure about the thing between her and Roman, but I’m reassured by the ambivalence there; it’s certainly not a straightforward romance or an easy relationship.
The last chapter of the book raises the stakes again; I’m curious to see where this is going. I read this book in one go, quite literally in one sitting, and it’s definitely a worthy sequel.
I had really high hopes for this based on the first chapters I read way back, and as with most Angry Robot books, I found the ideas really fascinating. The whole set-up of the world, the mystery behind the way it’s got there (because it’s quickly obvious it’s a post-catastrophe version of our world), combined with the two main characters. They’re both women, and they’re both awesome in very different ways: Liesl Malone is a tough as nails cop, and Jane Lin is a laundress in a highly stratified society which doesn’t necessarily see the value of her quick wits and constantly underestimates her.
I think the set-up for this story is great, and the characters too — although I predicted the plot whenever it involved Roman Arnault, particularly! — although I found it a little weaker in the middle. It starts out strongly, but the mystery doesn’t really stand out, and details come out a bit too slowly. Liesl (in particular) is awesome, and the whole issue of the sheer volume of knowledge being kept from the populace gives it an interesting background, but some parts just didn’t feel as sharp as they could be.
I’m looking forward to reading Cities and Thrones, the sequel, which will hopefully expand on all the stuff I’m interested in. The positions the characters are left in at the end of the book intrigue me particularly; everything’s changing for them.
People who already know my blog will know I’ve been excited about this book for a while, because I was involved (very tangentially) in acquiring it at Angry Robot (read all about it!). I’m amazed by how fast the actual release has come around: it doesn’t seem like that long since I met the team. Anyway, when the blog tour for The Buried Life was announced, of course I asked for a slot — I’ve championed the book since the start! (My review will arrive shortly. I intended it to be ready by yesterday, and then I somehow missed that it is now July. To prove that, I just typed “June”, the first time.)
So here’s Carrie Patel, graciously answering my chatty nosy questions!
Hi Carrie, it’s great to have you touring on my blog. I voted for The Buried Life in the acquisitions meeting I attended back in October, so it’s exciting to see it all ready to hit the shelves. It feels like it’s been no time at all, to me, but how’s it been for you? Did you have to spend much time editing and tweaking it? Does it feel real yet?
Hi Nikki! Thanks so much for hosting me! The last several months have been busy and exciting—between getting ready for this release and working on the next book, the time has definitely flown. Fortunately, The Buried Life didn’t require too many edits, so I’ve been able to focus on writing the sequel. It’s still pretty surreal, though—I attended my first convention as a speaker last weekend, and sitting on the other side of the table felt unreal!
After my visit to Angry Robot, people were very keen to know things like how much input authors have into the cover designs of their books. I don’t actually know the answers, so what’s that whole process been like for you? Did you make any suggestions, or did it just appear like magic?
It’s funny that you ask, because it seems that the question of cover design comes up a lot. At the start of the process, Angry Robot asked me for any particular styles, images, and comparable book covers that would fit with the story and the atmosphere of The Buried Life. As I understand it, that’s unusually collaborative—many authors don’t get any input on cover design.
So, I sent Angry Robot a hodgepodge of images and reference covers that seemed to evoke a certain tone. My main request was not to feature the main characters on the cover. I don’t have an incredibly specific sense of visual aesthetics—I was more looking for something that hit the right mood or conveyed a certain atmosphere—but John Coulthart’s cover art was exactly what I was hoping for.
I know this is your first (published?) novel, so I just wondered how long that process has been for you. Were you always gonna write, or did The Buried Life knock on your door and take you by surprise? How many hoops have you had to jump through?
I always wanted to write a novel, but The Buried Life took me by surprise. I’d played around with a few concepts before, but none of them had really stuck. Writing The Buried Life began as a kind of progressive experiment—the first draft was a challenge to see if I could finish a book, and each new revision was a test to see if I could fix it up for publication.
The revisions were probably the most important part of the process, and I learned a lot from having to analyse and edit my work like that. All in all, the process took a few years, but a lot of that was just time between revisions, which allowed me to come back to my drafts with fresh eyes and a new perspective. I wouldn’t want to take that long on future books, but the first time around, it was certainly useful.
Is there a character in it who you’d like to be more like? Or maybe even less like?
My husband (rightly) accuses me of being a little too type-A, which is a very “Malone” quality. I’m goal-oriented by nature, so I can sometimes lose sight of other things when I zero in on a goal. I’d love to be more like Sundar! He’s driven but kind, and he maintains a sense of humour in the face of adversity. He’s perceptive about people because he’s genuinely interested in them.
When I’m writing, I know that things sometimes come together in ways I wasn’t expecting. Did you have anything like that? What surprised you most while you were working on it?
The manner in which Jane’s and Malone’s stories came together and commented on one another surprised me. I always wanted to write them both as protagonists and perspective characters, but I don’t think I realized until I was well into the process how different the two characters really were and how much that affected their respective conclusions at the end of the story. I love perspective and the idea that two people recounting the same set of events can tell completely different stories, and that came through for these two characters in a surprising way.
What’s the most difficult part of writing, for you? Is it something in the process of writing (getting started, editing, letting other people see it) or is it on a narrative level (being mean to your characters, not letting them run away with the plot…)?
Getting a good plot foundation can be difficult, and yet I often have a hard time pushing forward with a book like The Buried Life (or its in-progress sequel) until I have that. I take lots of notes and make spreadsheets of characters, motivations, events, and themes, but there comes a point at which I’ve written just about all I can about the story without actually having written it. Figuring out what’s missing and how to plug a gap in the plot, or give a character a more solid motivation, can be difficult.
What media has influenced you in your writing? From just making you want to write to something that sparked some of the themes and ideas in The Buried Life — I’m interested in any kind of influence, and obviously I know you’re a narrative designer, so it certainly doesn’t have to be books.
Books were the biggest (and first) influence for me. When I was in school, I couldn’t go anywhere without one. I’d read on the school bus, in the car, and at restaurants if my parents let me get away with it. I did get in trouble (at least once) for reading under my desk during class. While I’ve enjoyed stories in many media, novels have been the most significant influence, and certainly the one that pushed me to write The Buried Life. There’s something uniquely personal about novels and the experience of reading them.
I don’t know how many people read the acknowledgements pages of novels, but I always like to. So who’s behind you, behind The Buried Life, who have you really got to thank for getting this far?
My husband, Hiren Patel, has been immensely supportive of my writing. His encouragement, and his focus in his own work, has pushed me to keep improving mine. Also, I might never have finished the first draft without Josh Sabio and Will Moser, two friends of mine who read it in college as I was working on it. Knowing that someone was waiting to read my draft was a huge motivation.
When I got more serious about revisions, my critique partners, Jacqui Talbot, Michael Robertson, and Bill Stiteler, were great about offering the feedback I needed to get The Buried Life the rest of the way there. I’d thank my agent, Jennie Goloboy, and the Angry Robot team, including Lee Harris, Mike Underwood, Marc Gascoigne, and Caroline Lambe, for taking a chance on a debut.
Finally, I thank my family—my parents, Richard and Jackie, and my sisters, Julie and Sydney—for their love and support.
Six word blurb of The Buried Life for newbies. Go!
Sinister conspiracy in an underground city.
Thank you for answering my questions, and I hope you have a whale of a time promoting The Buried Life. Congratulations!
Thank you so much! It’s been a delight to have you along from the beginning of this crazy ride!
So, everyone: don’t forget that The Buried Life is coming out in August. Preorders are a great push for any book, and you might want to consider doing that through an indie bookstore. Once it’s out, it’ll be available DRM free through Angry Robot, but also on major ebook sites for convenience.
One of the great things about Angry Robot (and Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, when we still had them) is their willingness to take on debut authors. Let’s give them no cause to regret it!
In the meantime, I have my own copy already, so here’s another giveaway — comment here with a link to somewhere you’ve promoted this blog post (twitter, your own blog, facebook, tumblr, any mention counts) and you get an entry. On the day the book is released, I’ll draw a winner and buy them a copy via The Book Depository (or a retailer of your choosing that can take my order and deliver it to you). If there’s significant interest, I’ll pick two winners, so you increase your chances by spreading this to a wider pool of people.
What did you recently finish reading?
Most recent was The Twelve Caesars (Matthew Dennison), which was disappointing in its total inability to make any concrete statements. Like being wrapped up in wool. Ugh. I’ll stick to getting round to Suetonius. Before that was The Door into Summer (Robert Heinlein), which I liked well enough but didn’t blow me away (and creeped me out in the place it usually creeps people out).
What are you currently reading? My Real Children (Jo Walton). I gulp it down when I get a minute, but I haven’t been in the mood to read as much so I haven’t been making the minutes. Also The Buried Life (Carrie Patel), same issue.
What will you read next?
For once, I’m fairly certain: it’ll be Steven Brust’s Yendi. Otherwise, I’m still going to work on the endless currently reading list, though I am for some reason very tempted to try Jim Butcher again, and to try reading more Vorkosigan (Lois McMaster Bujold). Because it’s not as though I have enough on the go already, right?
What did you recently finish reading?
Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker. I was riveted in a way I haven’t been for a while, in that rare enchanting way that makes you want to grab everything written by the author. I still need to write up my review, but I think that’ll have to wait for tomorrow. I enjoyed it, though: he comes up with really cool ideas, and creates fantasy worlds that don’t feel in any way typical.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve rescued Elantris (Brandon Sanderson) from the stack of books languishing on my currently-reading pile, on the strength of Warbreaker and a memory of enjoying what I did read of it. I’ve started over to make sure I remember all the details, so I’m not very far into it.
The other two books are The Buried Life (Carrie Patel), which I still need to finish, and My Real Children (Jo Walton), because now I have an ARC. I’m only two chapters into that, which is only really enough to whet my curiosity. Must try and turn down work tomorrow, and just curl up in my nest of teddies, pillows and blankets to read.
What will you read next?
It’s pretty much been established that if I claim to have any real idea, I’m telling lies, but I think it’ll be a library book. My library today had a fun discussion with me on the somewhat baffling subject of how many books the machine will let me have at once: it started at twelve, spiked to fifteen, and then dropped again to twelve — only for me to find out that it’s only meant to let me have ten! Quite bemusing, but they checked out the books I wanted anyway, which made me a happy bunny. So I think The Rook (Daniel O’ Malley) or Attachments (Rainbow Rowell) might be next — though The Rook annoys me by, in the very first page, announcing that Myfanwy is pronounced like Tiffany. Granted, it notes that it isn’t the traditional pronunciation, but still. Arrghh.
I haven’t bought anything this week! But I have been to the library and been approved on Netgalley for a book I’m particularly excited about, so there’s that. So, as usual, here’s my post for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. Do go and check that out and see what other people have been up to — it’s fun just to browse people’s acquisitions.
I’m particularly excited about The Buried Life because I was in the acquisitions meeting for it, way back when I won the Robot for a Day competition. I’m really excited to read all of it, and to see how the finished product has turned out.
Remember way back in, what was it, November? When I won the Robot For a Day prize with Angry Robot, and attended an acquisitions meeting where they decided to acquire Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life?
Well, now the cover’s been revealed by SF Signal, and there’s a giveaway running there too! Go here to enter the giveaway and get a better look at the cover.
I really hope I get hold of a copy soon… It’s pretty exciting to be however minor a part of this process and see it all actually happening. I read the first few chapters back when I was preparing for the acquisitions meeting, and I can’t wait to read the rest.
Today Angry Robot announced a new acquisition — a new author, even. Today they’re giving a big welcome to Carrie Patel, which is extra-special to me too because I finally — finally! — get to tell you a bit more about the acquisitions meeting I went to, i.e., the name of the author we acquired. And pssst, it’s a secret, but I was rooting for Carrie all along.
The first book is called The Buried Life, and here’s the summary:
The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Ricoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.
When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…
I’ve read the first five chapters, in preparation for that acquisition meeting, and I was really intrigued. There are strong characters — particularly strong female characters — and an interesting world. Lee Harris described it to me as a “steampunk adventure”, which seemed to fit what I was able to read: a steampunk adventure with cool, strong women — women from different walks of life/social classes, too.
I’m looking forward to seeing Carrie Patel’s book in print (I get an ARC, right? right?!). In the meantime, go say hi to her on Twitter @Carrie_Patel, or browse her website.