On Chrysoula Tzavelas’s author website she describes Citadel of the Sky as the first installment of a pentalogy that explores “what happens generations after the Chosen One defeats the Dark Lord”. She takes this premise and runs wild with it, throwing readers into a world stagnating under old traditions and vengeful magic. Thousands of years after epic battles have become myth, the present day magical protectors of the realm have degraded into royal figureheads of a government that would sooner do without the magical royal family than rely on the them. You see, everyone that is born with magic is doomed to go mad, and our main protagonist Princess Tiana is no exception.
Political undercurrents within the capital city point to a scheme to remove the royal family in the most permanent way possible, yet the royal family’s opponents could not have chosen a worse time. Rumors of a mysterious illness in distant rural areas indicate a magical malaise is infiltrating the region. Who can save them if not the magic of the royal family? Yet Tiana is not interested in politics, preferring to spend her time as a patron of the arts.
Unfortunately for Tiana, she can no longer avoid her responsibilities when she is gifted (or cursed) with a sword that binds itself to her soul. Citadel of the Sky is a dark fantasy rife with unusual monsters and imperfect heroines. We are honored to be featuring this book as our Fall 2018 F-BOM. Here’s how it stands up to our Scale:
Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts
Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts
Citadel of the Sky is filled with original ideas. One concept that fascinated me is that everyone in the royal family has a regent, a lifelong companion, who stays with them from dawn to dusk. The regents protect the royal family from themselves (and their growing madness), protect them from the world, and protect the world from them. For example, when under duress, Tiana will escape to another mental plane of existence, shared with family members past and present, called the phantasmagory. While in this other plane her physical self becomes a vacated shell that is extremely vulnerable. Tiana’s regent keeps a careful watch on her, and will try to bring her back when necessary.
Tzavelas does not coddle the reader, so take a deep breath and let the magic wash over you as this dark fantasy reveals itself. The magic systems are unique and take some getting used to. My absolute favorite concept in this story is the logos. This is a type of magic that operates like the matrix. A logos wielder can see the “words” (i.e. code) behind the entire world, and subsequently describe into existence creatures and realities. It also has the amazing power of manipulating what already exists (i.e. re-coding). One of the original short stories in the F-BOM special edition focuses on Twist, a wielder of logos power.
The idea of coding and re-coding manifests beautifully in a monster manual (for lack of a better word) written by one of Tiana’s ancestors. The ancestor tried to come up with as many different kinds of strange and unusual creatures as possible and give them names. It is essentially an encyclopedia of things that don’t exist…yet. The reason the ancestor created the book is so that in an emergency, such as an attack by a magical creature that hasn’t been seen before, they could hopefully find one looking similar to it in the encyclopedia. Since the creature would have a “name”, the logos magic users had more power to fight it. Absolutely fascinating.
Goes Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts
Citadel of the Sky is told from two main points of view: Princess Tiana and her cousin Kiar. Tiana was born with royal magic and as readers we quickly see that her grasp on reality is loose; the madness is in her blood. Kiar was not born with magic; instead she underwent a brutal chemical reaction that gave her the power of the logos. However, it costs her dearly and she wields it imperfectly. As a reader I was startled at the violence Tiana was capable of and I was dismayed by the motivations of Kiar’s magic usage.
The two women are complicated, make good and bad decisions, and their sex does not determine their status in this world. Rather, their royal blood and magical ability define them. This is no fairy tale, but we think you’ll be spellbound nonetheless.
Watch the Citadel of the Sky book trailer: