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Amberlough: A Novel by Lara Elena Donnelly
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Amberlough: A Novel (edition 2017)

by Lara Elena Donnelly (Author)

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765158,327 (4.44)7
Member:DeannaHoak
Title:Amberlough: A Novel
Authors:Lara Elena Donnelly (Author)
Info:Macmillan Audio (2017)
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Amberlough: A Novel by Lara Elena Donnelly

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» See also 7 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
I loved this book and it upset me a lot, both at once--that's a tough line for a book to tread, for me, and come out with a positive review on the other end, given how emotional and character-driven I often am in my reading. It's a hard one to categorize, too--it's kind of SF/F in that it's not a world like ours--it has different geography, history, geopolitical concerns, religion and culture--but other than that it's got very little in the way of SF/F tropes. It's easy to call it a version of Cabaret--down to the queers, the Nazi resistance and collaboration, the deviants trying to tread a line of art and livelihood in increasingly dire, repressive times.

There are several major characters, and they're all fucking assholes and I love them all. At various times I hated them. Almost all of the time, I understood them and could see myself making some of the same horrible compromises in a similar position. Mainly, they felt real, and their fears and attempts to live made sense, their world felt lived in and real even when I kind of glossed over the political machinations (It's not the book--it's me. I canNOT follow a political intrigue plot to save my life). It was a hard book and I couldn't have handled reading it even a couple of months ago--the political situation feels relevant in a chilling way, through an only barely obscured lens of secondary world fiction. It was also a delightfully fun book, with sparkling dialogue, three-dimensional relationships that don't require True Love(tm) or monogamy to be real and important (some of the non-monogamy is consensual, some is less so). The people are human and fallible. The stakes are high and the selfishness and attempts to save others intertwine in horribly messy, painful ways. It's a book with a lot of range and heat and spark, and I haven't read anything quite as full-on engrossing in a while.

If you require protagonists who are good people... maybe not this book for you. But I really loved this book. ( )
  Gretchening | Jul 20, 2017 |
DNF: Really bummed I couldn't get into this one, as I was quite looking forward to it. The psuedo-thirties setting and the diversity of sexuality, race, and gender expression is right up my street, but none of it stuck in my mind. I couldn't keep the motivations of the characters straight, I saw details that should build the word but weren't working on me, and blamed if I could sort what the actual heck was going on.
  lycomayflower | Jun 18, 2017 |
The best comparison I can make for Amberlough is that it’s a cross of Orwell’s 1984 and Kushner’s Swordspoint. It’s fantasy without magic, set in a world based on Weimar Berlin and experiencing the rise of fascism. Oh, and the three central characters are a gay spy, his smuggler lover, and a stripper who acts as his beard. Amberlough is both dark and somehow delightful.

Amberlough City is a corrupt but cultured city, the bustling heart of Gedda. But the One State Party (“Ospies”) want to unite Gedda’s four provinces into one centralized, socially conservative nation, and they are making increasing strides in shaping Gedda to their vision. Cyril DePaul is a spy who’s masters are growing concerned with the Ospies’s rise, but when Cyril’s cover is blown, he makes the decision to work with the Ospies for his own survival and that of his lover, smuggler Aristide Makricosta. Into this delicate dance of politics and survival, Aristide brings Cordelia Lehane, a dancer and drug dealer who works alongside him at the Bumble Bee club. As their way of life is threatened, these three will have to decide what they are willing to do to ensure their own survival and at what costs.

At its core, Amberlough is about the choices these three protagonists make and how the rise of a fascist government shapes them. What are they willing to do to survive? At what point are they willing to put their life on their line and fight? Each character ends up walking a different path, learning something about who they are under the pressure of the Ospies.

I adored all of the characters, even if I was frustrated by the decisions they made. Cyril admits that he’s a coward, and it becomes increasingly clear that he’s willing to put his own survival ahead of others… except maybe when it comes to Aristide. Aristide is a smuggler and drug king, but he may have more ethical compunctions than Cyril. While he values his own survival, he won’t cooperate with the Ospies to do so. I’d be hard pressed to chose between him and Cordelia as my favorite character of the novel. Cordelia’s a firecracker. Like all the others, she’s done morally questionable things to survive, including currently selling the same drug that killed her mother in order to make ends meet. But Amberlough is her home through and through, and she begins to realize that she’d rather stay and fight than run and live.

From the description, it may be obvious why I compared this book to Ellen Kushner’s Riverside novels and George Orwell’s 1984. Like Riverside, Amberlough is a fantasy story set in its own world but without magic and with a highly historical feel. Also like Riverside, queer characters proliferate. Like 1984, Amberlough deals with totalitarianism and cooperation versus resistance. However, Amberlough is completely its own story, and while the atmospheric setting may have clear parallels to Weimar Berlin, it’s different in other ways. For one, it is a lot more gender egalitarian than the time period its analogous to, and it’s actually much less patriarchal and better with female characters than either 1984 or Swordspoint. Working women seem common, referred to as “razors” for their short haircuts. Female generals are referenced offhandedly, and Cyril’s boss and the head of the spy agency is a woman. Of course, all this may change if the Ospies get their way.

Amberlough was just incredibly well written. From characters to world to plot to thematic material to emotional impact – Donnelly excels at all of these. I would never have guessed that this was a debut novel. While it may have started slow, by the end my eyes were gripped to the page. I’ll be incredibly surprised if this book doesn’t garner any award nominations – I think it’s clearly one of the best new releases of 2017. I’m also incredibly grateful for the announcement that Tor’s publishing two companion novels. I want more of Donnelly’s writing and of the world of Amberlough, and I encourage everyone else to read it. I doubt Amberlough will disappoint.

Originally posted The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Jun 4, 2017 |
A fantasy book with gay spies and smugglers in an eerily prescient fascist state. Go read it. Like, now. ( )
  ablachly | May 18, 2017 |
My first book of the year and, holy moly! If the rest of the 2017 books follow trend, it's gonna be a hella good year! The early reviews haven't lied. Amberlough truly does bring the reader a plate filled with espionage, intrigue, panache,and passion, with a dash of cabaret life, thrown in. This is one case where the cover doesn't lie. (Though I will admit, that as I started the book, there were some similarities between current political happenings and the happenings in the book, which, when the manuscript was being written weren't in evidence, that made me a little nervous. Then the story just grabbed me and didn't let go.)
I hope there's a sequel, but give me time to grow my finger nails back (or to break my nail biting habit.)

A proper review coming when 1) I'm feeling better (started the new year sick. Am hoping this means it only gets better) and 2) am caught up on other reviews, also pending.

To the author: blame your editor for sending me your way, but you turned me into a fangirl all on you own.

tags:2017-read, advanced-reader-copy, tor, reallyexcitedtoread, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, first-novel-or-book, great-cover, fantasy, will-look-for-more-by-this-author, wow, rounded-up-in-star-rating ( )
  bookczuk | Jan 2, 2017 |
Showing 5 of 5
Donnelly blends romance and tragedy, evoking gilded-age glamour and the thrill of a spy adventure, in this impressive debut.
 
A tightly woven and diverse cast of spies, criminals, cabaret bohemians, and lovers struggles to save what matters to each of them against a tide of rising fascism and violence in Donnelly's debut novel, set in a vaguely 1920s milieu.
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lara Elena Donnellyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Collins, GregDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davies, RhysMap artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kowal, Mary RobinetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ngai, VictoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stafford-Hill, JamieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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At the beginning of the workweek, most of Amberlough’s salary-folk crawled reluctantly from their bed—or someone else’s—and let the trolleys tow them, hung over and half asleep, to the office.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765383810, Hardcover)

From author Lara Elena Donnelly, a debut spy thriller as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup

Trust no one with anything – especially in Amberlough City.

Covert agent Cyril DePaul thinks he’s good at keeping secrets, especially from Aristide Makricosta. They suit each other: Aristide turns a blind eye to Cyril’s clandestine affairs, and Cyril keeps his lover’s moonlighting job as a smuggler under wraps.

Cyril participates on a mission that leads to disastrous results, leaving smoke from various political fires smoldering throughout the city. Shielding Aristide from the expected fallout isn’t easy, though, for he refuses to let anything – not the crooked city police or the mounting rage from radical conservatives – dictate his life.

Enter streetwise Cordelia Lehane, a top dancer at the Bumble Bee Cabaret 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.

Combining the espionage thrills of le Carré with the allure of an alternate vintage era, Amberlough will thoroughly seduce and enthrall you.

"Sparkling with slang, full of riotous characters, and dripping with intrigue, Amberlough is a dazzling romp through a tumultuous, ravishing world." ―Robert Jackson Bennett, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award and the Edgar Award

"An astonishing first novel!" ―World Fantasy Award-winning author Ellen Kushner

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 02 Jan 2017 18:37:28 -0500)

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