Think of all the things you've said at the funeral of a friend, things you wish you'd had the chance, and the permission, to say while they were yet breathing. I've gotten motivated to say my piece about the reading pleasure I've found in Lake's books. I read a fantasy novel.
Maybe Im just suffering genre fatigue, but for all its supposed grandeur and decadence, the City Imperishable feels...rather small and empty. China Miéville makes his city come alive in Perdido Street Station (to which this novel is compared, among others); Jay Lakes City Imperishable feels as dead as the rest of its empire. Truth is, I only bought this book because there was a giraffe camelopard on the cover.
Trial of Flowers is one of those new books in the "steampunk and decadence" genre that seems to have become popular since the emergence of China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. Trial follows the adventures of three men: Jason the Factor, Imago of Lockwood, and Bijaz the Dwarf, as the three of them face the rising old and corrupt gods and their magick that threatens to either overwhelm their beloved City Imperishable, or attract the attention of neighboring nations determined to raze the City to the ground before the gods can gather their full strength. Trial of Flowers isn't a perfect book. But the wider world isn't what the book is about, so once you've stepped into the City Imperishable, there really is only one way out.
The book is advertised as "decadent urban fantasy in the tradition of Perdido Street Station. The story centers around three characters: Jason the Factor, who is a dock manager by day, secret agent for one of the City's Councilors by night. Imago of Lockwood, a debtor who's looking to cheat the system and the courts by becoming the Lord Mayor of the City Imperishable. The whole of the story takes place inside the City Imperishable -- yes that is it's name -- which is suffering attacks of a magical (aka noumenal) nature while it's secret defender (Jason's boss, the wizard Ignatius) is missing. Meanwhile Jason is trying to find his master so the Burgesses can focus on the threat to the city. The first act revolves around Imago's bid for Lord Mayor, and how Bijaz and Jason involve themselves in this risky venture. Then he gets assaulted in a scene which I felt was gratuitous and unnecessary -- it seemed more for the sake of telling us how "decadent" this city was than for any real plot-based reason. However, the night before Bijaz goes out for a night service with a god monger (whatever that is, we find out after the first meeting he's also a Dwarf) and receives this horrible vision and reasons out that this Trial of Flowers is a bad thing. Jason is a turncoat after seeing some these atrocities in the palace (and telling us about them), Bijaz turns Slashed so he can fellate people for drug money, and Imago learns that being Lord Mayor is a pretty craptastic position in the government bureaucracy. Jason goes out to meet the incoming army to help them get in so one of the Burgesses can get a shot at killing Ignatius. Bijaz goes through rehab, and in some bizarre casino scene reminiscent of the Twilight Zone, becomes the "luck of the city." He becomes invigorated and sallies forth to set things right, by arranging a huge parade of the temple gods. Imago, meanwhile, goes beneath the city to find where the Old Gods were entombed to try to calm them down and get things back to normal. But how it all comes together and happens is so muddled I'm not sure what exactly happened. The greatest problem I have with this novel is that it seems that Lake is trying too hard to be like Meiville and it doesn't work.
This book caught a while back when it showed up on my recommendations on Amazon. And for a description, I go to the one that I saw from Publishers Weekly via Amazon.Com: The ancient and decadent City Imperishable teeters on the verge of obliteration in this inventive fantasy from the prolific Lake, if not from the armies marching toward its gates, then from the dark, bloodthirsty gods reawakening within its walls. On the back cover it claims to be along the lines of books like "Perdido Street Station" by China Mieville, "The Etched City" by K. I have read two of the three mentioned and would say that, yes, they are similar (as well as another book by the third author that can be said to be similar as well). They have what is referred to as "steampunk" qualities, plus the grittiness factor of the story, surroundings, and characters. I expected something that came with thick prose and would take time to figure out how the characters stood up, and what was happening around them. But the book started right out of the gate with being rather straight forward. I found myself having a problem getting through the book however. The dark nature of the book in general wasn't he problem. Black and white is not always a good thing when reading a story. And many like the mystery of dissecting just what is making a character tick.
If the above paragraph means nothing to you, a short review -- Trial of Flowers is a very dark, very disturbing fantasy set in the ancient, crumbling, bureaucracy -ridden City Imperishable.
A bit weird in places, and occasionally I think Lake reached too far with that. I can't think why Lake would lift a real-world thing so cleanly to place in his otherwise-far-out world. It was to be annoyed by his constant "to be" - some of which were reasonably placed and some of which just stopped the reading flow dead.
John Harrison and acknowledges that with a few references thrown in here and there for the sharp-eyed reader - plus you can't go wrong with VanderMeer himself plugging the book on the jacket.
Din pacate cartea pare ca stagneaza destul de mult, nu se intampla multe lucruri (supranaturale), doar niste atacuri la inceput, avem si zvonul unei armate ce se indreapta spre oras ( ramas la nivel de zvon cel putin in prima parte), ceva fiinte dintr-o alta lume, in rest subiectul este dominat de necesitatea lui Jason de a afla ce s-a intamplat cu Ignatius din RedTower. Necesitate care nu concluzioneaza prea bine pentru cititor, disparitia lui Ignatius nefiind explicata mai in amanunt si ramanand multe necunoscute, romanul accentuand mai mult nevoia cetatenilor de a se sacrifica pentru a-si salva orasul si pericolul revenirii la vechile obiceiuri si odata cu acestea, Vechii Zei sa fie treziti la viata. Din punctul meu de vedere, scriitorul nu reuseste sa creeze aceeasi atmosfera fantastica, la care sa salivezi continuu, sa-ti vina sa nu mai lasi cartea din mina, pe care o gasesti in Perdido Street Station cel putin, sau in scrierile lui Jeff VanderMeer. Romanul este structurat pe urmarirea separata a actiunilor fiecaruia dintre cele trei personaje principale, capitolele purtand numele acestora, multe din momentele de incheiere fiind bine dozate, facand loc unei doze suficiente de suspans pentru a te sili sa continui. Per total este o lectura fantasy mai neobisnuita si mai singeroasa decat de obicei, cu momente in care reuseste sa te captiveze dar apoi parca totul se sparge, fie ca autorul nu mai pune accent pe explicatii fie nu dezvolta destul de mult subiectul.