“The City of Locked Doors” is a dark humour fest. It joyously leaps into fighting, maiming and killing in a dystopian world where the dead are not really dead, a violent power coup is taking place, and our classic, revenge seeking antihero is overflowing with madness and rage. All this and more, but never too seriously. We follow Noir closely and quickly through a myriad of fast changing scenes to see who will win between chaos and order, though we are not always sure which is which. He is a fun character to follow, even if some of the humour falls a little flat.
The atmosphere is dark and full of gray ethics, people are resurrected almost daily, so violence is everywhere, murder is a norm. The novel reminded me of the comic book series Requiem by Pat Mill and Olivier Ledroit, for the easy gore and inherent violence. And because that comic is a jewel, and fitted the tone, that’s how I liked to visualise the novel. I highly recommend it. Most descriptions of creatures and backdrops are rather minimal so this is not the type of book where you can skip a line but you have a lot of space for your own imagination.
The world is rich and brimming with rules and a huge set of new vocabulary on magic, creatures, conditions, materials… that said it’s easy to get a little lost as we are not really eased into it. Because this is a very dark world, death is constant in the book but not permanent, it made it difficult at first to know which kinds of murder were allowed and which ones weren’t. There is a glossary at the beginning, I find that a little tedious to read in general, and usually would skip it, but I advise not to, as it also gives insight into the panel of characters we meet throughout the pages by explaining what their traits are (once we figure out what monsters and powers they hold in them). Personally, I would have prefered that information distilled throughout the pages of the novel, in bite sized chunks as we encountered them, but that’s probably because I’m a lazy reader and don’t like the idea of flicking back to the beginning to check my “knowledge”.
The book actually has many similarities to video games, with a bestiary and its way of going from one enemy to the next, a bit like reaching new levels with different environments and skill sets. It felt a little like fighting bosses, some of them with multiple evolutions. But the book justifies all its decisions and is neatly wrapped up in a maybe a little too heavily foreshadowed conclusion. I was not surprised by the ending, having guessed it early on, but because I really liked the world, the different magic system and the secondary main character of Adrian, I enjoyed the ride. I’m sad there was not more evolution of the characters and that the large cast of supporting characters, even though they had a good back story, were not really used for anything. Having said that I would be happy to read a follow up volume, the world is so interesting and this really felt more like a genesis novel.
I am giving 3.5 stars to this novel for it’s brimming potential