2019 Book of the Year Shortlist. Part Six – The City Stained Red

Book six on the list is another Sam Sykes book, and the first in the Bring Down Heaven trilogy. I had a taste of Lenk and company from the Ale and Blood Novella and I couldn’t wait to get more. Let me tell you I wasn’t disappointed.


The City Stained Red

Sam Sykes

The City Stained Red is a fantastic book that has everything. Comedy, tragedy, a big dragon-man and a fallen God. If you read a synopsis, you would be forgiven for thinking this is Dungeons and Dragons fan fiction, a rogue, a warrior, a cleric and a mage. Still, it is so much more than the sum of its parts. The author has a fantastic ability to take a fantasy trope and twist it into something almost unrecognisable and all the more enjoyable for it.

The setting is superb, a middle eastern city with giant spiders, warring gods and a thriving underground of thieves and murderers, but it is the characters that really light up the book. Deep, complex and flawed in a way that so few characters in fantasy ever are. They are good(ish) people making terrible decisions for understandable reasons, and they are great fun to read.

There were a couple of bits so wonderfully written that I had to stop reading to show the wife. Sykes has a turn of phrase and a way of making the scenes that jump off the page and drag you in.

The City Stained Red is a fantastic read. The minute to minute story beats keep the pages turning while the overarching plot gets darker and more menacing. It is packed with brilliantly deep and interesting characters that surprise and delight in equal measure. As soon as I finished the book, I ordered the rest of the series. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have The Mortal Tally to go and read…

Book of the Year 2019, Sam Sykes, The City Stained Red