Kyra’s star ratings:
Characters: * * *
Story: * * * *
Writing: * * * *
Concept: * * * *
Emotional engagement: * * * 1/2 (I like deeper emotional engagement, but there are good reasons why the story only touches on the surface of the emotions.)
(I was provided with a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review)
The City of the Mirage is an interesting book; an epic in scale but novella-length collection of shorter episodes that tell the story of a nameless military pilot, referred to only as The Conqueror, who is shot down in combat over the desert and, while being pursued by the enemy, finds refuge in a city that appears as a mirage in the desert. There, he becomes a warrior of renown and eventually enters the service of the goddess Astarte.
The writing is deceptively spare and simple, but also evocative; the images and feel of the story are still lingering in my mind well after finishing it. The story only touches on the surface of the main character’s emotions; he mentions once that he would like to go back to his world, and he is repelled by some of the things that are done in Astarte’s service. I would have liked to go deeper into his mind, but the story is presented as incidents recorded for Astarte’s chronicles, and the lack of deep emotion adds to the mythical feel.
For some reason, I’m not sure why, this book seemed reminiscent of older-school fantasy. It kind of put me in mind of Andre Norton’s WitchWorld novels, which I read probably about 35 years ago and don’t remember all that well, but this just reminded me of them, maybe partly because of the stranger in a strange land premise.
The book could use one quick edit to correct a few minor mistakes in punctuation and word usage.
Many of Mr. Brooke’s other writings are erotica; The City of the Mirage is not erotica, though it does contain some mature themes and situations such as concubines and extreme violence. However, this content is not graphically described, and I would say that the book is appropriate for adults and older teens.
If you want a fast-moving read that’s different from most of the fantasy available now with the feel of mythology and that will stick with you after you’ve finished, I definitely recommend The City of the Mirage.