Armistice returns to Donnelly’s ravishing 1930s Art Deco-tinged fantasy world of Amberlough with a decadent, tumultuous mixture of sex, politics, and spies.
In a tropical country where shadowy political affairs lurk behind-the-scenes of its glamorous film industry, three people maneuver inside a high stakes game of statecraft and espionage:
Lillian, a reluctant diplomat serving a fascist nation,
Aristide, an expatriate film director running from lost love and a criminal past,
and Cordelia, a former cabaret stripper turned legendary revolutionary.
Each one harbors dangerous knowledge that can upturn a nation. When their fates collide, machinations are put into play, unexpected alliances are built, and long-held secrets are exposed. All is barreling towards an international revolt…and only the wiliest ones will be prepared for what comes next.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
If you start Armistice simply expecting it to be more of Amberlough, you will be disappointed. Which isn’t to say that the second part of the series is in any way worse than the first – just that there’s a very different feeling about it.
We move three years into the future & into Porachis, the neighbouring country. That dazzling city of cabarets & decadence we came to know? It’s no longer there, since the Ospies turned the world upside-down. And so Armistice deals with the fall-out of that disastrous event – it’s more about how the characters try to make sense of their new lives and hold out hope of getting the old lives back than anything else. There are still spying missions and politics, of course, just as in the first book, but it all has a very different, more desperate vibe. They’re no longer fighting against a system but instead attempt to rebuild a lost country. It’s especially interesting to see since we get to fitness this struggle from an outsider’s perspective, as all of the main characters are now outsiders of their homeland.
Speaking of characters, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who picked up this book waiting anxiously for news of Cyril. Not only do we not learn anything about him – it’s never even clear if he’s alive – but both Aristide and Cordelia are so much changed by the Ospies induced nightmares, they almost feel like different people. Their traumas and emotional trials are palpable, Aristide missing his lover Cyril & being unable to fully pursue another relationship because of this actually seems like the core of the novel at times. And this is still very much a characters driven novel. That’s truly where Donnelly’s strength lies in, creating those multi-dimensional characters who sometimes feel more real than actual living people you know.
So that’s one (amazing) aspect in which Donnelly is giving the readers exactly what they came to expect after Amberlough. Another would be the style itself. Now, if you enjoyed the writing in the first book, you will like this as well. It’s just as dense, just as full of a made-up slang, making you pause every three minutes to make sure you got a sentence right. I can see how people would love this but unfortunately, for me personally it was kind of hard to get through. It doesn’t help that basically the first half of the book is pretty slow with action, either. On the more technical side of things, I especially didn’t like the use of a different type of quotation to note a character speaking another language.
Overall, Armistice is a solid continuation of the series. It introduces a bunch of new characters, adds a lot of depth and flavor into this miraculous world, and answers some of the questions we’re left with at the end of Amberlough. And even though it very clearly feels like The Middle Book – you know the syndrome – it doesn’t actually disappoint.
Buy Armistice on BookDepository.
Have you read any of the books in this series?
Or are made-up historical countries not your cup of tea?