The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias S Buckell

The Tangled Lands

by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S Buckell

Winner of the World Fantasy Award 2019, Best Collection.
For fans of Ken Liu and Gene Wolfe.

Khaim, the last city of a once-great empire, clings to life.

This is a world poisoned by its addiction to magic. Every time a spell is cast, toxic bramble sprouts, bursting forth from tilled fields, thrusting up from between cobblestones. A bit of magic, and bramble follows until whole cities are consumed by tangling vines. Armies hack and burn... yet in a world that can't give up magic's sweet succour, the bramble can't be stopped.

When Jeoz the alchemist discovers a potent new weapon to wield against the bramble, his invention promises Khaim freedom from fear and starvation. But these are twisted times and the bramble is not the only corruption that blights the land.

'Pulses with the siren call of power, the throb of remorse and dreams of redemption' Daily Mail.

'Exploring themes of power, corruption, greed and thwarted hope, the authors deliver an absorbing and sensitive fantasy' Guardian.

Reviewed by Beth C. on

4 of 5 stars

The land of Khaim, where magic use causes brambles to grow. Not just *any* brambles, but those that FEED on the magic, and follow it to it's source. Almost sentient - and absolutely deadly. The people know this...and yet. It's all to easy to do "just a little" to help heal a child. Or "it'll be ok" to help a business flourish. It's always "just fine" - until the brambles make their way closer and closer, taking over home and hearth, and killing entire cities.

These four stories, alternating between the two authors, are all excellent. They are interesting, with wonderfully written characters - and each shines a different light upon the problem of magic use causing the brambles. Each story has its own ending, but with all four of them on the same topic, they easily bleed right into the next one. You really won't want to stop reading.

I do hope that there will be more stories to come from Khaim - there are a couple that ended in which I would love to have some follow-up on the characters and what ended up happening AFTER. Will there ever be an answer to the all-or-nothing problem of the magic and the deadly thorns? Or will the people of that land simply continue to do as they have done, until one day, the world is nothing but the deathly plant?

Honestly, it was initially the cover that drew me. However, in this case, come for the cover - stay for the stories.

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Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 20 March, 2018: Finished reading
  • 20 March, 2018: Reviewed