A Fantasy City That Feels Alive: The Burnished City by Davinia Evans

A Fantasy City That Feels Alive: The Burnished City by Davinia Evans

Notorious Sorcerer and Shadow Baron (Orbit, September 13, 2022,
and November 14, 2023). Cover Design by Lisa Marie Pompilio

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a groundswell of interest like I’ve witnessed for Notorious Sorcerer, Davinia Evans’ debut novel and the opening book in her Burnished City series. It didn’t get a lot of attention when it was released in trade paperback last year, but over the last twelve months I’ve seen a lot of discussion. Everyone is talking about this book.

The Book Nook says it’s “compelling… a remarkable and ambitious debut,” and Every Book a Doorway calls it “Dazzling… badass and honestly wondrous… the story never has a dull page.” Publishers Weekly labels it an “energetic epic… This is a charmer,” and Book Page doesn’t rein in their enthusiasm, saying it “deploys genre tropes with delirious glee and builds a rich and fascinating world.”

All this recent buzz is good timing, since the sequel, Shadow Baron, arrives next month, and that gives me just enough time to finish the first volume and get some hot cocoa ready in time for Book Two.

Publisher’s banner for Notorious Sorcerer

I’ve lost track of how many bloggers and book sites are talking about Notorious Sorcerer — but this review is my favorite. It’s by Paul Weimer, from the Hugo Award-winning Nerds of a Feather.

Siyon Velo is an alchemist. He’s not one of the sorcerers of the Summer Club, the high end of the magic world in the city of Bezim, really the only place in the known world where magic even works, and it is highly restricted and distrusted even so. Siyon delves into the other three realms of existence for alchemical reagents he can sell to the real sorcerers who can make true use of them. But when he does an impossible act that could qualify him for their ranks, it is also a signal that the balance of the planes themselves are under threat, Siyon is going to have to step up and in an impactful way to be the Sorcerer he always wanted to be…

Evans provides us with, first and foremost from my perspective, a diverse, rich and interesting city with a culture, society, history and geography (in a number of axes). Bezim, the one city in the world where magic reliably works, a city riven by class and social division, is in itself a character on its own. From patrols of inquisitors sniffing out illegal use of magic, to the rooftop routes that the bravi use in their perambulations, the city feels alive, interesting and always something new around the corner….

Notorious Sorcerer... is ostensibly a story about a magical disaster waiting in the wings, trouble that might have been accelerated… by Siyon’s impossible act of magic that makes him that Notorious Sorcerer. Even through this existential threat, however, it is his drive and his personal story, the story of his relationship, the struggles he undergoes, that really brought me as a reader to turn the pages… it is compelling work that Evans has put into the characters and onto the page for the readers.

Here’s the complete publishing details.

Notorious Sorcerer (448 pages, $17.99 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, September 13, 2022)
Shadow Baron (464 pages, $19.99 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, November 14, 2023)

Both books are published by Orbit. The cover design is by Lisa Marie Pompilio.

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