I tend to be something of an impulse reader: if I'm bored and I see anything with words on it, even if it's just a cereal box, I'll read it. That's how I first discovered Catherine Fisher's novel Incarceron. I was bored, the book was sitting in my house, so I sat down and read it all. In four hours.
Naturally, when I heard about The Dark City, the first book in Fisher's new series, Relic Master, I snapped it up immediately. Set in the world of Anara, the story centers around a Relic Master and his apprentice, Raffi. Relic Masters use their magic to find ancient technological relics (such as telescopes and laser guns) that tie in neatly with Anara's creation myths, which the reader will recognize as a history of spacemen who colonized the planet and then left with promises to return. Relic Masters are persecuted by the Watch for believing these myths and possessing the relics. The only safe place for Relic Masters is in hiding. But when Raffi's master Galen loses his powers in an explosion, desperation to recover them drives him from their hiding place and sets them on a quest to the Wounded City, Tasceron, former capital and murder site of the emperor. Magic has blanketed the entire city in a black fog, and the Watch guard the entrance; it's impossible for Galen and Raffi to get inside without being caught. But they have little choice.
The point of view alternates between Raffi and Carys, a member of the Watch. Between the chapters are verses of Anaran mythology that embellish the world and pull readers deeper into the plot. There's never a dull moment in this book; the characters are well-drawn and each carry their own secrets, doubts, and shifting allegiances. The atmosphere is dark and treacherous, like the Wounded City itself, at the same time offering glimmers of hope and the familiarity of the relics for readers to grab onto. The ending is satisfying even as it launches Galen and Raffi into another quest.
Luckily, middle-grade readers don't have to wait long until the quest continues. Dial is publishing each book in the quartet this summer, one a month. The second book, The Lost Heiress will be released on June 14; The Hidden Coronet on July 12; and the final volume, The Margrave, on August 9. Entering this immersive, fascinating world is the perfect way to while away the summer days.