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The Ingenious by Darius Hinks. Book review

February 4, 2019

Book cover of The Ingenious, with a row of large terraced houses either side of a street leading to a blue majestic building in the distance.

Cast adrift in time and space, the city of Athanor stands in splendid isolation. Although it makes a far from desirable abode. It is a place where the detritus runs free through open sewers. Poverty, complete with all the attendant decrepitude, is generally the rule rather than the exception.

“Reluctantly, she poured herself from Athanor’s innards, floundering through the shit, dribbling through the backstreets and brothels.”

So begins our hero/anti-hero’s journey, flaneur-style though the city, after being released from the Sisters of Solace, a type of rehabilitation institution. One in which the nefarious of Athanor appear to ebb and flow, like an unwashed tide. This initial sojourn through this squalid urban chaos brings to mind the introduction to China Miéville’s Perdido Street station, in which the potentially familiar entwines with the downright bizarre.

It is the full and odiferous description of a city, staying only just one step ahead of collapse, that clearly establishes Darius Hinks as an author who relishes his worldbuilding in all its repulsive nuances.

Yet somehow, despite the appalling stench and filth, Hinks manages to induce hunger pangs in his readers for the rich food exile Isten literally brings to the table for her disenfranchised compatriots.

Isten is a character who you are never sure is going to make it to the end of the book. Living on the edge is perceived by someone like her as taking the safe option. Her “professional” relationship with Phrater Alzen, a member of the Elect (the magicians who rule the city with a strange form of alchemy) and the villain of the piece, adds another, potentially fatal complication to Isten’s already tenuous hold on life.

To say Alzen is unpleasant is to understate his skin-crawling activities undercover of doing good works amongst the dying of the poor. Bringing him head-to-head with Isten layers on the intrigue and sense that the balance between master and newly acquired vassal will shift from one to the other’s favour as the story progresses.

The inventions of this world are novel and (to use the title of the book) ingenious, raising it above the usual fantasy novel of ruling classes in a decaying world suppressing the less fortunate and a flawed hero attempting to carve a niche within it.

Although visually and conceptually dense, Hink’s writing still radiates tension and relentless action, making for an entertaining read.

The Ingenious was courtesy of Angry Robot, via NetGalley.

Read an excerpt of The Ingenious by following this link.

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