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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)

Series: Amberlough Dossier (1)

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3862649,586 (3.97)34
"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)
Member:DeannaHoak
Title:Amberlough: A Novel
Authors:Lara Elena Donnelly (Author)
Info:Macmillan Audio (2017)
Collections:Your library
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Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

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» See also 34 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Donnelly has a tendency to infodump at some points in the book, and in the beginning the complicated regional politics can be difficult to follow. But eventually I (mostly) understood the situation and huge cast of characters. Still, it’s some really fascinatingly detailed worldbuilding I can’t help but be impressed by.

The world is colorful and complex and nuanced, and feels very real because of it. The characters are equally so, from the good and pure ginger accountant boy to tall, dark and fabulous Aristide.

If you like political intrigue, spy novels, Moulin Rouge, and/or that Gatsby aesthetic, but without all the usual homophobia and sexism that plague those genres, I would recommend this book. It features a cast that’s diverse in race, gender, gender expression, sexuality, and social class. There’s even happy, healthy polyamory. ( )
  Erandir | Feb 1, 2021 |
I found Amberlough hard to get into at first; there are a ton of names – of people, places and political groups – and while I picked them up before too long, it took a lot of furrowed concentration at the start. The good news is that so long as you're willing to do that, you'll be rewarded with a fantastic spec fic thriller, set in an analogue for Weimar-era Germany as it succumbs to Nazi rule.

The main characters are split between spies and burlesque theatre folk, most of them gay, and the rest dead broke (my god how refreshing it is to read a book where not everyone is rich!!). The characters are all far from perfect people, but especially Cyril, whose flaws are so glaring and decision-making skills so horrible that his chapters made me squirm to read at times. And also let's be real, there was no reason he had to murder Finn. That was cruel. That said, despite their flaws I found them all compelling to read about, the way their stories crossed paths and had them sometimes allied and sometimes working against each other. That was neat.

There is a palpable sense of dread over the course of the book that gets sharper and heavier the closer you get to the end. The real theme of it is the way that the impending seizure of power by the Ospies (Nazi equivalents) forces people into some nasty dilemmas where every option sucks, but it still matters what option they choose anyway. I'm looking forward to seeing how that develops over the rest of the trilogy.

As an aside, I also appreciated the depiction of Amberlough itself – the many districts, from genteel to bawdy and everything in between; the public transport routes; the sights and smells of the city parks; the sounds of the different accents of its residents… it was just clearly a book from someone who loves urban life and can put into words all the things that make cities great. It made for an immersive environment as all the politics and scheming were underway. If this book sounds like anything you might be interested in I encourage you to give it a try, because it really gripped me. ( )
  Jayeless | Sep 9, 2020 |
Brutal, and not entirely to my taste, but very, very good. ( )
  elenaj | Jul 31, 2020 |
This book is full of hard choices and vibrant world-building. Hard choices not only because of the set-up for the story and the way things fall from there, but because all three POV characters have had rocks and hard places in their pasts and a lot of the secondary characters get in on the act too. Cyril loves Aristide but must pretend he doesn’t. Aristide has a Past™. Cordelia, a dancer at the club, has clawed her way out of a slum. There are street urchins and fences and people targeted for their race or religion, and that’s not even starting on the people Cyril has to turn. It makes for a greyer, grittier story than the cover might suggest.

And the world-building? Think Weimar Berlin, but in a secondary world with its own politics and tensions and history. Think Art Deco and black-tie dinners and streetcars and kids hawking papers on every corner. Think Gatsby slang but slightly tilted. Then add a culture of smuggling and corruption that’s pretty cheerfully ignored, and everyone (except the Ospies) not caring what anyone’s skin colour, gender presentation, or sexual preferences are. And then, as the fascists start to descend, I had to remind myself this wasn’t a historical place, and this beautiful, complicated city wasn’t being overrun.

Which is definitely a tribute to Donnelly’s writing. You really feel the love the characters have for their city, their hopes and fears, their pain and sorrow and anxiety. While I didn’t experience the distrust everyone has for each other the same way as I did the above, that’s still well-realized, and the interpersonal tensions that result from them ratchet the story up nicely as it goes along.

It’s definitely a bit of a slow build, though the handful of spy thrillers I’ve read suggests that’s genre-standard. It never quite felt like things were genuinely happening even though the story moved forward, and even though I read it pretty quickly, I never felt like I was flipping pages needing to know what happened next. But then the climax came and oof. (And this is just book one.)

So. I found this surprisingly rich in character and world and theme, much more complicated than I’m likely making it sound, and delightfully queer and quasi-historical. I enjoyed the read but, because I wasn’t caught up like I wished I was, probably won’t be reading the sequel. That doesn’t stop me from reccing it, though!

To bear in mind: The aforementioned fascists, doing the sorts of brutal, racist, homophobic things that fascists generally do. A gay man having to go in back in the closet.

7/10 ( )
1 vote NinjaMuse | Jul 26, 2020 |
Amberlough is an entertaining book. The writing, pacing, and characters were all very well done. Even characters that I shouldn’t like found me occasionally rooting for them. The beginning caught my attention, and the ending truly disturbed me. Amberlough is uncomfortably reflective of the current political landscape of the US. In the end, the politics here are able to have their own uniqueness. There are few simple solutions, or easy endings to be found here. ( )
  YakaRa | Jul 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (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

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lara Elena Donnellyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Collins, GregDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davies, RhysMap artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kowal, Mary RobinetteNarratorsecondary 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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"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"--

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