ARC Review: The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore

I was sent this book as an advance copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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The final volume in K. A. Doore’s critically-acclaimed assassin fantasy series

(spoilers for The Impossible Contract in the next paragraph – don’t read if you haven’t read that book!)

Seven years have passed since the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Though she was trained to be an elite assassin, now the Basbowen clan act as Ghadid’s militia force protecting the resurrected city against a growing tide of monstrous guul that travel across the dunes.

Illi’s worst fears are confirmed when General Barca arrives, bearing news that her fledgling nation, Hathage, also faces this mounting danger. In her search for the source of the guul, the general exposes a catastophic secret hidden on the outskirts of Ghadid.

To protect her city and the realm, Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one — but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?

Release date: June, 16th

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★★★★.5✩

That was a really funeral conclusion to one of the best fantasy surprises I’ve had in 2019!

The book takes place seven years after The Impossible Contract and explores the consequences of individual and collective trauma through the eyes of Illi Basbowen.

What started as a family of assassins is now what protects Ghadid from the guul that in increasing numbers threaten the city they all love. I loved seeing the relationship among the cousins, both the younger generation and the generation of Amastan and Thana, the previous two books’ protagonists.

While the previous two books can be read as standalones, this last one greatly relies on book two’s knowledge, and partly on knowing Amastan’s story from book one (if you, like me, like to read books for that sweet character development), so make sure to read those first (and honestly, why wouldn’t you?? they’re great).

I can’t say a lot about the plot without spoiling pretty much everything from this book and the previous ones so you’ll have to read the book for yourself for that, but I thought the high stakes were well-balanced with both humorous and tender moments.

And speaking of tender moments! Although I should say both tender and hot. I loved the f/enby romance in this so much! Canthem is so swoony and smooth, I honestly got a crush on them myself a little. The dynamic between Canthem and Illi is of the “one night stand turned crush, with a side of forced proximity” kind (oh my god there’s only one caravan) and it was so much fun.

A lot of my favorite moments also involved characters we’ve already met in the previous two books, I’ve already mentioned Thana and Amastan, among others I can’t spoil, but I can’t not mention Heru with his undead camel 🐪 and his, uh, social skills. Which, if you’re wondering, are still equal to zero. Also, I’m officially launching the hashtag #hehasalabassistant. If you know you know.

I can’t wait for more people to read this so I won’t be alone in my suf- uh! I meant so we can talk about that bittersweet ending* 🙂

*don’t worry, the romance is HEA!

I’m simultaneously sad that this series is over and looking forward to whatever K.A. Doore writes next. This series had one of the coziest atmospheres I’ve ever read, it made me feel like I was living in this desert city with the main characters, and every time I started a new book it was a bit like coming home.

TW: past trauma and PTSD, intensive thoughts, brief mention of suicidal ideation, blood magic, character death

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