Review: City on Fire by Don Winslow

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

City on Fire by Don Winslow

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Book 1/Stand Alone

Publisher: William Morrow & Company | HarperAudio (April 26, 2022)

Length: 384 pages | 8 hrs and 54 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

A beautiful woman who comes between two rival empires and ignites a brutal, bloody war. Sound familiar? City on Fire is crime thriller novelist Don Winslow’s modern take on the classic tale of Helen of Troy from the Illiad, using the gangs of 1980s New England as a backdrop.

In Providence, Rhode Island, the Italian and Irish crime syndicates co-existed in relative peace, until one summer, an incident at an annual beach gathering between friends gives way to bitter conflict.  Pam, the girlfriend of Paulie Morretti, accuses Liam Murphy of groping her inappropriately. Morretti’s crew, not about to let this disrespect slide, decide to teach Liam a lesson by breaking his head and putting him in the hospital. Of course, things would have ended there had Pam not gone to visit Liam during his convalescence. Before long, they were together, and the insult becomes too much for Paulie to bear, thus setting off the war between their two gangs.

In the middle of this is Danny Ryan, our protagonist. His father used to be the head of the Irish mob, before alcoholism got to him and the Murphy family took over. Now Danny is the husband of Terri Murphy, the beloved daughter of his new boss. He’s also best friends with Pat Murphy, his brother-in-law, putting Danny in a unique spot despite not being a main player. As the youngest Murphy boy, Liam is used to being doted upon, but now his antics will require Danny taking on a bigger role in the family business, as the war with the Morretti rages on. At first, having more responsibility was what Danny thought he wanted, but now he’s not so sure. With a baby on the way, and the violence getting increasingly bloody with the body count on both sides rising, it’s all Danny can do to survive and keep his loved ones safe.

To tell the truth, I know next to nothing about mob fiction. So, take it with a grain of salt when I say that, at least to me, City on Fire felt very much like your stereotypical gangster story complete with the standard tropes. We’re talking lots of violence, gunplay, double crosses, and a host of other brutal activities related to the underworld of organized crime. The characters are pretty archetypal too, from the chest-beating crime lord and the hard stubborn men who surround him, to the femmes fatales who only seem to wield their beauty and sexuality in order to further their own gains. There’s even the “weak link” younger brother who causes all the problems. Keep in mind that this book also takes place in the 80s, and coupled with the mob culture, expect a lot of both casual and blatant racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. which comes with the territory when it comes to the genre.

The main premise behind the novel was certainly interesting though, as was its execution. The inspiration of the Iliad was subtle but undoubtedly there, with allusions to the classic poem cleverly inserted at varying points of the story. Historically, I didn’t even know New England gangs were a thing, but apparently Rhode Island in particular was a hotbed for mafia activity. This being my first time reading Winslow, I was also unused to his writing style, which was very matter-of-fact and not particularly refined. That said, the tone was a perfect match for this type of story. As with any epic saga, everyone who plays a role—no matter how big or how small—also has a backstory. While the timing of these weren’t the best, as they tended to disrupt the flow, I still loved getting to know the characters and having a better idea of what makes them click. And with so many characters to keep track of, having a solid background established for each person really helped.

The overall story was also breath-takingly good and utterly compulsive. Despite a lack of any major surprises (like I said, it’s very tropey), I was nevertheless completely hooked. Even with the frequent detours to explore yet another character backstory, the momentum of the plot never ceased driving forward. City on Fire was seriously hard to put down.

All in all, despite this being something an “outside the box” read for me, I still enjoyed myself immensely, even with some minor speedbumps along the way. Plus, speaking as someone who only has a casual knowledge of this genre, I also loved how perfectly accessible this was, especially once I got the hang of all the characters. My first Don Winslow book and I’m definitely not disappointed.

Waiting on Wednesday 04/27/22

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

All the Blood We Share by Camilla Bruce (November 22, 2022 by Berkley)

Okay, I’m obsessed with Camilla Bruce, and this one definitely feels like it shares similar vibes with her book In the Garden of Spite, which I LOVED. I already had this one on my list, and I was very excited when the author posted about the cover reveal last week.

“A sinister novel based on the real Bloody Benders, a family of serial killers in the old West bound by butchery and obscured by the shadows of American history.

The winds shift nervously on the Kansas plain whispering of travelers lost and buried, whispering of witches. Something dark and twisted has taken root at the Bender Inn.

At first the townspeople of Cherryvale welcome the rising medium Kate Bender and her family. Kate’s messages from the Beyond give their tedious dreams hope and her mother’s potions cure their little ills—for a price. No one knows about their other business, the shortcut to a better life. And why shouldn’t their family prosper? They’re careful. It’s only from those who are marked, those who travel alone and can easily disappear, that the Benders demand their pound of flesh.

But even a gifted seer like Kate can make a misstep. Now as the secrets festering beneath the soil of the family orchard threaten to bring them all to ruin, the Benders must sharpen their craft—or vanish themselves.”

Bookshelf Roundup: 04/24/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

black line

Yes, I’m a day behind with this update, but that seems to be the story of my life lately! I always say this, but hopefully this week will be better. Visiting family members have all gone home, so it’s just a matter of easing back into the regular schedule.

Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Cheers to the kind folks at William Morrow for a finished copy of City on Fire by Don Winslow. This mystery crime thriller is going to be a huge deal this spring, after the initial release date was pushed back six months. I’m going to be picking this one up next and I’m so excited!

With thanks also to Tor Books for sending me an ARC of Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald. From the author of the Raven’s Mark trilogy comes this first book of a new dark fantasy series that I just can’t to sink my teeth into.

I also want to thank the Tordotcom team for the following review copies: And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin is described as a horror debut that seamlessly blends “Fake News” with zombies, and Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson which is a locked room mystery with aliens. Both of these sound awesome.

In the new digital arrivals, with thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for listening copies of a trio of historical thrillers! The Fervor by Alma Katsu is a supernatural psychological horror taking place in a WWII Japanese American internment camp; The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas is described as a gothic haunted-house tale of suspense set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence; and finally, The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian grabbed my attention with its premise of a historical thriller about a 1960s group of Hollywood friends embarking on a safari to the Serengeti…and then everything goes wrong. I’ve always wanted to read the author, and not gonna lie, but the blurb name-dropping Agatha Christie was a huge part of it too.

And finally, my thanks to Simon & Schuster Audio for an ALC of Deep Water by Emma Bamford, a thriller following a couple on a remote island getaway described in the vein of Into the Jungle and The Ruins. I requested this because there’s nothing more alluring than terror in paradise.

Reviews

Or Else by Joe Hart (3.5 of 5 stars)
The City of Dusk by Tara Sim (2 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

Audiobook Review: Or Else by Joe Hart

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Or Else by Joe Hart

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (April 1, 2022)

Length: 7 hrs and 22 mins

Author Information: WebsiteTwitter

Having enjoyed Joe Hart’s books in the past (Obscura and The Last Girl), I had some high expectations for Or Else, his new twisty thriller. But unlike his sci-fi or dystopian work I’ve read before, this one’s pure psychological mystery and suspense.

We begin with an introduction to protagonist Andy Drake, a novelist returning to his hometown to care for his father, who is suffering from dementia. There, Andy reconnects with his childhood friend Rachel, who is now living a picture-perfect life as a married mother of two. However, that happiness is only a façade. In truth, Rachel suffers quietly every day from an abusive husband, and Andy, having recently lost his mother and is now dealing with the stress of caring for his father, is also in a vulnerable position emotionally. Eventually, their rekindled friendship crosses the line to become a full-blown affair as both Andy and Rachel use each other as a form of escape.

Then one day, Andy receives an anonymous message warning him to end things with Rachel, or else. Unnerved by the idea that someone knows about the affair, Andy realizes he might not have been as careful as he thought. And then a few weeks later, Rachel’s husband is murdered. His wife and their two kids go missing, vanished without a trace. All of a sudden, things have gone from bad to worse for Andy, who now looks suspicious as hell.

To be completely honest, I’ve read better thrillers, though that is not to say I didn’t enjoy Or Else. Hart’s matter-of-fact style simply seems more suited for science fiction rather than drama and emotion, making Andy and Rachel’s relationship come across as somewhat stilted and unnatural. There was a lack of illicitness and danger, and considering the affair was at the center of the conflict, I felt this put the start of book on a weaker footing.

Fortunately, the author’s strength is his mystery and suspense writing, which is the element which most certainly came through, especially once the plot hits its stride. Obviously, I won’t be giving away any major details, but I will say the family dynamics between Andy, his father, and his siblings were handled very well. There were tensions building on multiple fronts, including Andy’s situation at home as well as the mess involving Rachel. And when things moved, they definitely moved fast. I think savvy mystery/thriller reads who are familiar with the genre will know to expect some of the reveals, but there were still twists and turns aplenty (and even a deception or two) to keep you guessing.

If you are looking to dip your toes into the genre, or if you’ve enjoyed the author’s work in the past and want to read more, Or Else would be a great book to try. Even seasoned fans of mysteries and thrillers would probably appreciate this one for its quick pacing and ability to keep you hooked.

Finally, I want to say a few words about the audiobook, which was the format I reviewed. Graham Halstead is a new-to-me narrator, but he left an excellent first impression. I thought his voice was a good match for Andy Drake, who I pictured as an “everyman” type of character despite his successful career as a novelist. Like all of us, he’s only human and sometimes makes mistakes and horrible decisions without thinking them through. Halstead’s voice has a down-to-earth quality to it that really brought out Andy’s vulnerabilities, which made this one quite a convincing and immersive listen. So, if you’re an audiophile who has Or Else on your radar, the audiobook is definitely worth checking out.

Waiting on Wednesday 04/20/22

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson (September 20, 2022 by Starscape)

Something a little different today, but I make it no secret that I’m a huge Brandon Sanderson fan and that I would read anything he writes. That includes his Middle Grade series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, which is actually AWESOME and HILARIOUS and I highly recommend anyone give it a try, whether you’re a kid or an adult. In true Sanderson fashion, we’d left off on quite a doozy of a cliffhanger the last time we were with Alcatraz and Co., so I’ve actually been waiting on this one for years to find out what happens next.

From #1 New York Times bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson comes Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians, the thrilling conclusion to the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians saga.

As a Knight of Crystallia, I, Bastille, swore to protect the Smedry clan from the Evil Librarians. (And believe me, screwups like them constantly need protecting.) But when Alcatraz Smedry got strapped to an altar of outdated encyclopedias to be sacrificed to the dark gods, I arrived too late―and instead his father took his place.

Now Alcatraz is a blubbering mess, so it’s up to me lead the charge against his father’s killer: Biblioden, founder of the Evil Librarians―I was sure he died centuries ago!―who’s back to complete his goal of world domination. Now he’s going to use the dark powers he gained from that sacrifice against everyone not under Evil Librarian control. Being burned up from the inside is not how I plan to die, so I’d better figure out some way to stop him or we’re toast!

I know Alcatraz is wrong when he swears he’s no hero. But when a hero falls short, that’s the time for everyone else to step up and do what needs to be done.”

Book Review: The City of Dusk by Tara Sim

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The City of Dusk by Tara Sim

Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Dark Gods

Publisher: Orbit Books (March 22, 2022)

Length: 512 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Well, I tried, I really did. After all the glowing praise I’ve heard for The City of Dusk by Tara Sim, all I really wanted was to love this book, but unfortunately it was just not meant to be. Despite the lush magic and vivid descriptions that made the world-building stand out, there were a number of other reasons which made it difficult for me to connect with the story.

At the heart of it are four heirs of the noble houses of Nexus—Mordova, Vakara, Lastrider, and Cyr. Each one worships a god from which they are descended, leading to a precarious and tense situation following a catastrophic event known as the Sealing five hundred years ago which forced all four of the houses to exist one plane.

We have Angelica Mardova, an elemental worshipper who has plenty of ambition but is hobbled by her inability to harness the full potential of her magic. Then there’s Risha Vakara, a necromancer who must weigh her family’s hopes for her against what she wants for herself. Next is her friend Taesia Lastrider, who wishes she could wash her hands of house politics, but her brother Dante’s big plans seem to keep drawing her back in. And finally, there’s Nikolas Cyr, whose lack of experience and preparedness for the throne often makes him feel insecure and inadequate.

It is the hope of every house to some day undo the Sealing, and Dante Lastrider feels he’s getting close. But then he gets involved in some trouble, forcing his sister Taesia to step up and take charge. For the first time in centuries, it appears the houses’ connections to their gods can be feasibly reestablished once more, but there will be some dark magic required, and it all comes down to how far each heir is willing to go.

As many reviewers have pointed out, if there is such a thing as a “main” character in this ensemble cast, it would have to be Taesia. The focus seems to lean heavily on her, and her storyline also seems the most eventful and interesting. Unfortunately, this imbalance means the other characters feel neglected in comparison or aren’t as developed, and it was this disparity which also led me to feel dissatisfied with much of the overall story direction. Leaving aside that the fact none of the other characters were all that memorable and failed to make any lasting impression, I was simply not feeling their storylines as much because I was not as engaged.

And to be completely blunt, much of the plot was plodding and dull. That’s not to say it didn’t have its moments, but these little bursts of action and adventure were brief and far too few in between. Part of the problem is that the book’s greatest strength is also the source of its greatest weakness. I loved the rich magic system and the author’s attention to detail when it comes to bringing the world of Nexus to life. That said, all this information also made for an overwhelming experience, not to mention it bogged down the pacing. For a story with a relatively straightforward plot and uncomplicated themes, The City of Dusk felt unnecessarily bloated.

At least the writing style was exquisite, and Sim’s prose is beautiful despite feeling overly dense. There is a lot of exposition, however, and the battle to remain engaged is compounded considering so much of it is frontloaded backstory and explanations right off the bat. In my opinion there was also way too much going on, and the impression I got was that the author was juggling too many ideas and struggled to keep them all in the air. That’s the only explanation I can come up with to address why there would be glaring holes in certain aspects of the world-building, when for the most part everything else was handled so well.

At the end of the day, only the answer to one question matters, and it’s what I always use to guide me when writing a review. Did I enjoy this book? Well, I didn’t hate it, but I can’t say reading it did much for me either. More than once, I found I couldn’t wait for it to be over, just so I could put it away and move on. Despite some things that I really liked about The City of Dusk, I’m sorry to say that I just didn’t have that great a time with it overall, and I likely will not continue with the series.

Bookshelf Roundup: 04/16/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

black line

Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Starting out with a couple of fantastic looking Middle Grade titles with thanks to the kind folks at Simon & Schuster! First up is an ARC of Spy School Project X by Stuart Gibbs, the latest installment in the author’s hit children’s series. Books for middle graders tend to be pretty forgiving when it comes to jumping on board in the middle of a series, so maybe my daughter and I will be able to check this one out! From S&S imprint Aladdin, I also received a finished hardcover of Lia Park and the Missing Jewel by Jenna Yoon, the first book of a new MG fantasy series exploring a world of Korean mythology.

On to more mature fare, with thanks to the team at Cemetery Dance Publications, a small horror publisher founded by author Richard Chizmar (which I was recently surprised to discover that they’re headquartered in my own backyard), I received a review copy of The Night Road by Kevin Lucia. It sounds like a creepy little novella, and I hope I’ll have some time later this month to read it. And with thanks to Del Rey, I received an ARC of The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu. I’m up for anything inspired by martial arts these days, and I’m also looking forward to reading Wes again!

On to the digital haul! This week’s new arrivals are courtesy of amazing HarperAudio team, who supplied me with a good mix of fantasy and thriller titles to suit my every mood: God of Neverland by Gama Ray MartinezInsomnia by Sarah PinboroughAn Honest Lie by Tarryn FisherThe Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan, and The Couple at Number 9 by Claire Douglas.

Reviews

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James (4 of 5 stars)
The Amber Crown by Jacey Bedford (3.5 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

Friday Face-Off: Urban Fantasy

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

~ an URBAN FANTASY cover

The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

The Library of the Dead opens in Edinburgh, the home of our protagonist, 14-year-old Ropa Moyo. At a young age, she dropped out of school to look after her beloved grandmother and her sister Izwi, scraping out a living as a “ghostalker”—someone who can communicate with the dead. Mostly, this involves getting paid to help folks deliver messages to their dearly departed, but then one night, Ropa encounters a recently deceased spirit who makes her rethink everything she thought she knew.

Let’s check out the covers! Keeping it simple with just a good old-fashioned head-to-head this week.

Tor Books (2021) vs. Pan Macmillan (2021)

Winner:

Tough one this week, I don’t love either one but I don’t dislike them either! The Pan Macmillan UK version did catch my eye though, with its lines radiating radiating out from the center, and it took a closer look to make me realize it’s supposed to be a map of the city. But it’s cool that from a distance they look a lot like tree limbs or veins!

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Thursday Thriller Audio: The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Penguin Audio (March 15, 2022)

Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrators: Brittany Pressley, Kirsten Potter, Robert Petkoff

The Book of Cold Cases is my second novel by Simone St. James. After reading The Sun Down Motel, I became a fan of the author’s style of combining mystery suspense elements with the supernatural, so I was happy when I found out this one would have similar vibes.

For one, the setup felt familiar, with a story told via two timelines. In the one set in 2017, we meet Shea Collins, a true crime enthusiast. By day she is a receptionist at a clinic, but by night she works on her website called the Book of Cold Cases which focuses on unsolved murders. Tragically, Shea’s obsession was born from a traumatic experience from her own childhood in which she almost became a victim of abduction and murder.

To her surprise, one day Shea recognizes an elderly patient who steps into the office. It is none other than Beth Greer, a former wealthy socialite who had been tied to a pair of brutal murders back in the late seventies. Two men, in separate incidents, were gunned down by the side of the road after stopping their vehicles to help someone. In both cases, a mysterious note was left behind by the killer, with a taunt written in the same hand. At one of the crime scenes though, there was a witness who claimed to have seen a young woman matching the description of Beth Greer, twenty-three years old at the time, running away after the shooting. But even after she was arrested and dubbed the Lady Killer by the press, Beth was ultimately acquitted due to lack of evidence.

For someone like Shea who has spent hours poring over the Lady Killer case, seeing Beth Greer in the flesh was somewhat like meeting a celebrity. Plucking up her courage, she approaches the older woman for an interview for her blog, and to her surprise, Beth accepts.

What follows next is the gradual unraveling of the truth of what really happened, told through the eyes of both Shea and Beth using alternating perspectives. As the interview between the two women goes deeper into the past, exploring Beth’s childhood growing up amidst her parents’ troubled marriage, as well as Shea’s harrowing escape from her would-be abductor, a clearer picture begins to emerge on how their stories fit together and how the impact of certain events can ripple through time.

At the center of this book is also a house—the Greer mansion in which Beth was raised. It’s a beautiful estate by the ocean. It’s also seemingly haunted. Kept pristine since the time Beth lived there, strange things tended to happen within its luxurious rooms and halls. It’s almost like it’s trying to communicate…but what is it trying to say, and who is sending the message?

The longer Shea tries to answer these questions, the more she becomes drawn into Beth’s past. On another level, she’s also enchanted by the older woman because of her interest in true crime and having been obsessed with the details of the Lady Killer case. As the bond between the two of them grows, so too does the complexity of their relationship. Beth has a secret, and there’s a reason why she has decided to share it with Shea. But as the truth surrounding the past murders remains shrouded for most of the book, readers are left hungering for more details.

In the end, the reveals were subtle, and the experience satisfying. The pacing was certainly compulsive, but the energy behind The Book of Cold Cases was undoubtedly driven by atmospheric suspense rather than pure thrills. I also enjoyed the author’s handling of the alternating POVs and the two timelines. Past and present chapters folded into each other seamlessly, and not even the interview sections could impede the flow.

On the whole, major points to The Book of Cold Cases for originality and the entertainment factor. If you enjoy mysteries with a touch of paranormal, this is the book for you! As well, high marks to narrators Brittany Pressley, Kirsten Potter, and Robert Petkoff for brining the audiobook version to life. All three are readers I’ve enjoyed listening to in the past, and I’m glad they were able to lend their talents to this project, making it such an immersive experience.

Waiting on Wednesday 04/13/22

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Lute by Jennifer Thorne (October 4, 2022 by Tor Nightfire)

I’m intrigued by both this book’s cover and its description, and you know I’m always up for horror reads in October!

“Wicker Man meets Final Destination in Jennifer Thorne’s atmospheric, unsettling folk horror novel about love, duty, and community.

On the idyllic island of Lute, every seventh summer, seven people die. No more, no less.

Lute and its inhabitants are blessed, year after year, with good weather, good health, and good fortune. They live a happy, superior life, untouched by the war that rages all around them. So it’s only fair that every seven years, on the day of the tithe, the island’s gift is honored.

Nina Treadway is new to The Day. A Florida girl by birth, she became a Lady through her marriage to Lord Treadway, whose family has long protected the island. Nina’s heard about The Day, of course. Heard about the horrific tragedies, the lives lost, but she doesn’t believe in it. It’s all superstitious nonsense. Stories told to keep newcomers at bay and youngsters in line.

Then The Day begins. And it’s a day of nightmares, of grief, of reckoning. But it is also a day of community. Of survival and strength. Of love, at its most pure and untamed. When The Day ends, Nina―and Lute―will never be the same.”