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Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
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Amberlough

by Lara Elena Donnelly

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Amberlough Dossier (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
This is a novel about people caught in a conservative, unionist, fascist (?) coup. The book was nominated for Nebula in 2018, so one can assume it is SF or fantasy, but it is neither. While the story is set in an imaginary country, there are no magic, fantastical beasts or gods, quite like some works in the 1920s and 30s, which no one labelled as fantasy. It is possible that if not a gay participants it wouldn’t have been nominated. This doesn’t mean that the story is bad, just that it hardly can be classified as SF&F.

Amberlough is a capital of province of the same name. It is one of four provinces, which composes the country Gedda. One of the other provinces has a border conflict with a neighboring state and this, among with other issues, fueled a raise of the authoritarian One State Party (Ospies for short). Amberlough city is a cosmopolitan port, with corruption, smuggling and places to burn money. One of the latter is the Bumble Bee Cabaret and Night Club.

Enter Aristide Makricosta, Ari for friends, a drag queen, emcee and star of the Bee. This is his front line, which covers smuggling, including drug trade (in ‘tar’, which supposedly means opium). His lover, a secret agent and a scion of a wealthy family, Cyril DePaul is sent to another province to prevent Ospies from winning the elections, but his cover is blown, so he turns sides to save himself and his lover. Add Cordelia Lehane, a stripper at the Bee, who works as a runner for Ari and as a cover girlfriend for Cyril (for Ospies don’t trust gays).

The book has a very bad start, characters look shallow and the world inchoate. So much so that only reading half of the novel (and planning to drop it) I finally get into it. However, when I did, it improved notably – the final part was done quite good, emotionally and gripping. So well done that I thought about getting the next volume.

What I disliked is the active usage of [fictional?] 30s’ slang, which was a bit disorienting - for starters I though e.g. that hounds are hired security and not police and that razors are hooligans (with straight razors, cf peaky blinders)... maybe for native speakers it isn't a problem. Also, the world-building felt incomplete - why Gedda is divided? How 'Old religion' survived (unlike pagans under Christianity)? How higher gender equality (do we even now have female army commanders in actual wars?) affects this world? Why radio isn't the king? What was the original purpose of Foxhole? Etc., etc.

An interesting read.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
Not only is Mary Robinette Kowal one of my favourite authors, she has now joined the ranks of favorite audiobook narrators as well.

I love a good fantasy novel with no magic in it. It's not an easy thing to pull off and Donnelly does it skillfully. I wasn't sitting back waiting for dragons or sorcerers or aether-powered dirigibles to show up—I was just sucked into the lives and machinations of these characters.

Now the wait for book #2 to be in paperback. ( )
  BillieBook | Nov 20, 2018 |
This book tore my heart out and threw it on the floor and stamped on it, and I could not have loved it more. It is grim. It is queer. It is heartbreaking. It is chilling. Fascism is on the rise. Queers are on the run. Hard decisions have to be made. People die. Elections are rigged. War is on the horizon. And yet, and yet, and yet. There are still people fighting.

If you want an escape from what's going on in the world right now, this isn't your book. On the other hand, if you want to look the state of the world in the face and weep, both because it's horrible and because it's *true*--this is exactly the book for you. Go read it. ( )
  VLarkinAnderson | Sep 24, 2018 |
espionage in a fantasy world in which Amberlough stands in for Berlin in upheaval as the republic falls quickly from corrupt democracy into fascism. suspenseful and moving, with characters that become oddly endearing in spite of their flaws because of their will to fight for freedom and for each other. ( )
1 vote macha | Jun 21, 2018 |
This was the type of book that when I finished it, I had to lie back down and just stare at the ceiling. It was mind blowing. There are layers of intrigue and you don’t watch it unfold, in fact it’s the opposite, you watch it form and develop as the story progresses.

The setting in this one is one of a lot of political instability. It’s explained in the earlier parts of the book. It’s a bit difficult to follow (notes may help some readers) perhaps a character list would help in this case to keep everything straight. A glossary would have helped as well as the characters have their own slang - most of it straight forward but it would help nevertheless. That being said despite these little shortcomings, the world is rich and detailed. Amberlough is decadent and has remnants of Weimar Berlin. Now I did say previously it’s hard to follow because of the slang, but it’s precisely because of this slang that makes the world more detailed and fun to read.

The pace of the plot is slow and steady as it sets up the stage for what would follow after. It is essentially, a spy novel, so it quickly leads to a lot of double dealing, moments of backstabbing and betrayal. There are only three characters that you really need to focus on as the supporting ones just add to the flavor of the novel. Of the three that are central to the plot, one must love Aristide.

With a name like Aristide Makicosta you know he’s going to be a character to remember. He’s flamboyant, street smart and clever. Despite the world burning around him he always manages to do everything in style. It’s hard not to fall for his charms and so you would understand Cyril’s love for him. I still don’t know what to think about Cyril. He was doing the job and had to. It came at a great cost but he had no choice and he had to think for himself (although I know there seems to be a lot of hate for him).

I love Cordelia. She’s got sass, she’s just as street smart and a survivor. Her character development is on point in this book. Yes she may be just a ‘dancer’ but she soon develops into someone with a cause to defend the city she loves. Despite the horrors she goes through in the latter half of the novel, she doesn’t let it break her. It’s admirable and she’s likable not only because of her catchy personality but also because of her unstoppable strength.

That ENDING THOUGH. I felt my eyes grow wide each time I turned the pages throughout the last third of the novel. This was why I had to sit back and just absorb everything I’ve read when I finished this one. It was that good.

Greatly recommended if you like intrigue, a decadent setting, and memorable characters. I absolutely enjoyed this book. ( )
  sensitivemuse | May 22, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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)

"Welcome to Amberlough City, the illustrious but corrupt cosmopolitan beacon of Gedda. The radical One State Party--nicknamed the Ospies--is gaining popular support to unite Gedda's four municipal governments under an ironclad, socially conservative vision. Not everyone agrees with the Ospies' philosophy, including master spy Cyril DePaul and his lover Aristide Makricosta, smuggler and emcee at the popular Bumble Bee Cabaret. When Cyril's cover is blown on a mission, however, he must become a turncoat in exchange for his life. Returning to Amberlough under the Ospies' watchful eye, Cyril enters a complex game of deception. One of his concerns is safeguarding Aristide, who refuses to let anyone--the crooked city police or the homophobic Ospies--dictate his life. Enter streetwise Cordelia Lehane, top dancer at the Bee 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"--… (more)

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