Book Review: The Floating City

The Floating City by Craig Cormick, Shadow Master #2

The Floating City is in turmoil. The magical seers who protect it are being killed by fearsome Djinn that rise out of the canals at night. Members of the city’s Council of Ten are being assassinated by masked fanatics. Refugee ships are arriving, bringing plague. Othmen spies are infiltrating everywhere. New power blocks are battling for control of the city.

And the three Montecchi daughters, Giuliette, Disdemona and Isabella, are struggling with love and loss – and trying to write their own destinies. And moving amongst them all is the mysterious and deadly Shadow Master, who seems to be directing everyone like players in a game. But some things in this game may be beyond even his control.

Last year Craig Cormick published his first venture into the fantasy genre, The Shadow Master, which was an exciting Alternate History story with a lot of different influences taking place in the time of Galileo and Leonardo. It had a lot of detail of the surroundings and a most interesting plot and twist in the end that of the famed Shadow Master. And as I said in my review of The Shadow Master I really wanted to read The Floating City, luckily I got my hands on an early copy.


Just a note upfront the story of The Floating City takes place at a different venue and with a completely new cast of character with the exception of of course the Shadow Master himself. The scenery is changed from the Walled City to the Floating City. A city who is currently in disarray. The reason of this becomes apparent from the very first chapter actually the very first sentence: "The story starts with a murder". I knew from this that it would an exciting story. You learn that terrible creature hunt in the canals of the Floating City, attacking everyone and in particular the important people of the Council of Ten, the rulers of the city and the Seers, powerful mages. In this introduction you also meet Vincenzo the scribe who is writing down these events for his patron Signor Montecchi, Vincenzo actually wants to write about the history of the city and current troubles it face instead of writing the family history, for which he was hired. 

After this introduction the perspective is split into multiple views, that of the Montecchi daughters, Disdemona, Isabella and Giuliette, who each want to leave their impression on the world. They are of an age when they see more in men then just friends. Each of them have a guy that they like more than just like. But their father is strict and it becomes obvious that he doesn't want let his girl loose to soon. So now they become more rebellious in trying to pursue the things they love, but with the city in disarray, it becomes a perilous journey and sometimes a cost has to be paid. What they do not know is that they fates have been predetermined and that they play an very important role in the eventual fate of the Floating City.

Next to the three Montecchi daughters, another perspective is added by that of the Shadow Master (I had a big smile on my face when I read this) and that of Vincenzo. The Shadow Master recruits the scribe to record the events. But not just simply recording as Vincenzo has to power to change things with his writing. The history that he records is true. I really liked this concept especially by the fact that Vincenzo doesn't simply write down "and they lived happily ever after". It's much more complicated than that. Together with Vincenzo, the Shadow Master hovers over the city like a hawk to lead everything into the best waters, but even the Shadow Master with all his powers finds it hard to control everything by himself. 

The story of The Floating City as you can see from above is more than a highly eventful one. For me the story felt different than what I had read in the first book of Craig Cormick. The Floating City for me was more of a sort of poetry story. By mixing the two storylines of Vincenzo and the three Montecchi daughters stories of love gained and love lost, and other troubles produced a great setting in the lines of a modern poetry, without the verses. The writing of Craig Cormick was clear and to the point, however Craig Cormick didn't compromise in exposing his world, I loved the whole world building. In his first book Craig Cormick produced for a realistic Italian feeling, insofar as I have understanding of it and he does so once again The Floating City reminded me most of Venice, also with the canals. As I already said Craig Cormick doesn't compromise, when he described the canal scenes it felt like I was right there next to the Shadow Master. 

Next to the whole ambiance of The Floating City, the characters are also reminiscent to those seen in the classic Italian style. You can simply give them Italian sounding names but that doesn't complete a character and this is precisely what Craig Cormick shows. I loved the three daughters: Disdemona, Isabella and Giuliette, each of them had their own thoughts and own idea's and of course what comes with that age a certain degree of stubbornness. As for the Shadow Master, we knew him from the first book though only in the later parts, now with a whole book devoted to showing his action he comes in a much brighter daylight for the better. You learn that he holds a lot of power, he can do plenty of things with the blink of an eye. Vincenzo is a remarkable character as well, I liked how he was transformed by the influence of the Shadow Master and came to, in the end, understand what made The Floating City float.  

I already said that the book is highly eventful, a lot of actions are set into motion by discussion, either the Montecchi daughter or by the Shadow Master and Vincenzo but you also have the Seers from the Floating City and the various Othmen envoys, and of course the Djinn-Slayer. All these latter players really are just plain cool, the things they do, with magic flinging it at their opponents and the sword of sword action. It's all top stuff. Though I do have to say that the ending of the book, the climactic ending was for me a bit over to soon the battle had a great introduction but then it was over in a few paragraphs I would have liked to have seen it spread a bit more, but luckily for me the wake of the battle wherein everything was revealed gave me a huge grin on my face, Craig Cormick made it all up in the end. 

With The Floating City, Craig Cormick has nicely outdone himself. The Shadow Master had a lot of cool things working in it's favor which he shows once again in The Floating City but much better. The surroundings of The Floating City itself felt vibrant and alive and with the creatures lurking in the canals very deadly. Added to this comes a very diverse character cast that readily takes the story further and produces by their personalities and actions a very engaging story. Now the thing that make this book really cool for the big idea of Vincenzo the Scribe writing the history or is it changing history or writing the story of The Floating City, there is a saying: "The pen is mightier than the sword" I guess this goes with a reason. Craig Cormick produces with The Floating City a story of modern poetry, including lovers gained and lost, and changing the fate of something big.  

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