The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier is a booked that I bought based on the joint recommendation of the Book Smugglers. The premise was interesting and based on the Smugglers’ review, it seemed like the kind of YA fantasy that I could really sink my teeth into. Plus, I heard from both Charlotte and Chelle that they also enjoyed reading this one so that sealed the deal.

Here’s the summary from Rachel Neumeier’s website:

The Kingdom’s Heart is the City. The City’s heart is the King. The King’s heart is the Prince. The Prince is missing.

Ever since the Prince disappeared, nothing has been right in the Kingdom. Something has disturbed the strange, old magic that whispers around its borders… something cunning and powerful. And the disturbance extends to the farthest reaches of the Kingdom, including the idyllic village where Timou is learning to be a mage under her father’s tutelage.

When Timou’s father journeys to the City to help look for the Prince, but never returns, Timou senses that the disturbance in the Kingdom is linked to her – and to the undiscovered heritage of the mother she never knew. She must leave her village, even if it means confronting powers greater than her own, even though what she finds may challenge everything she knows. Even if it means leaving love behind.

The City in the Lake is a quest-type YA fantasy novel. The whole kingdom starts to fall apart with the disappearance of the young Prince. Magic starts to go awry and mages have no idea why. Timou is a young woman raised by her mage father in an isolated village. When trouble reaches even their remote area, her father goes back to the city to investigate. When he doesn’t return, it’s up to Timou to discover what happened and she knows that her quest is tied with her search for the mother that she never knew. I’m going to start with the things that I liked in this book. It was easy to fall into the world created by Rachel Neumeier, I didn’t have a hard time reading this book. I liked both Timou and the Bastard as characters, which is a good thing since the point of view of the story changes from one character to another. Timou isn’t your typical YA fantasy heroine because her strength lies in her powers as a mage. I enjoyed being inside Timou’s head because I think the author did a good job of portraying how a mage’s mind works – how a mage sees his or her surroundings and how that is tied to the magic in the world. I also liked the Bastard because he was such a subtle character – he’s powerful in his own way and the people aren’t sure what to make of him, they don’t understand whether he’s good or evil and if he has anything to do with the disappearance of his half-brother.

However, I was already halfway through the book when I realized that it wasn’t as compelling as I would’ve liked. I kept waiting to be blown away but it just didn’t happen. It’s really a shame because when I think about it, there isn’t anything wrong with the book, it’s just that I didn’t feel like it was strong enough to pull me in and hold me, you know? I knew it wouldn’t have much staying power and I guess I was right because it’s been a few days since I’ve read this and I can’t recall all of the details anymore. I don’t know if it’s because my expectations were too high but I’m sad that I didn’t like it as much as I was hoping to. As always, I encourage the rest of you epic fantasy readers to give this one a try even if I had a lukewarm reaction to it because based on the other reviews that I linked below, I’m in the minority with how I felt.

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Charlotte’s Library
Tempting Persephone

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This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.

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24 thoughts on “The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

  1. Sad to hear that you didn’t love this one, though I’m definitely still giving this one a try. Still kicking myself for not buying one of those 100 peso copies I saw!

    • Yes, you should’ve gotten one of those P100 copies! 😛 But knowing you, you’d probably find another bargain copy in one of the places that you go to.

    • Book moratorium=no buying new books until said moratorium is lifted because you’ve already spent more on books than you should for the past quarter.Ummm, would you kill me if I said Juliet Marillier books? Hehe. 😛

      • I was joking when I asked what it meant, LOL! I know about book buying bans but it’s something that I won’t do so it’s not in my vocabulary.

        Ooooh where were you able to get signed copies of Juliet Marillier’s books? Chris from Ficsation recently posted about the Sevenwaters books.

      • Yup, I figured that you’d be well acquainted with book moratoriums haha. But still wrote in my definition anyway.

        I got TOR hardcovers of Daughter of the Forest and Son of the Shadows. Another seller had Child of the Prophecy signed by both Marillier and John Jude Palencar available last year but it was sold before I made up my mind on whether to get it or not :(, so when I saw somebody else post the first two books I snapped them up even though they were more expensive than Child (which was lower priced despite having two signatures because because the first seller had gotten it at some sci-fi convention he’d attended in Australia). It will take some time before I get my hands on them though, because they’re being shipped in a box from the US.

        And that explains why I’m on book moratorium now. Signed copies are ouchie on the wallet, especially for authors like Marillier who rarely conduct signing tours outside their home country. 😦

      • I forgot to answer your question. Those two were from an antiquarian book dealer in the US that an LJ friend is acquainted with (I’d asked my friend to look out for signed copies for me after I missed out on CotP), so I probably shouldn’t have used the word “post” in that earlier reply. Put up for sale might have been more accurate. Haha.

        There was a time, back in 2001-2002, when signed Marillier books were easily available in the US. I think she mentioned in her fan forum that she’d signed hundreds of copies for some convention. And I actually remember bookcloseouts (which no longer sells to Philippine customers, no thanks to the high rate of credit card fraud and reports of “missing” packages they get from our country–hope bookdepository doesn’t go the same route after a while) selling signed copies at remainder prices.

      • I wonder how much you spent on those signed copies? Email me if you don’t want to leave it in a comment here! 🙂 I’d love to get signed copies of the first two Sevenwaters books because I loved those (the third one not so much). Hmm maybe I can ask Juliet Marillier where signed copies of her books are available and I can order them from Australia. That’s what I did with Megan Whalen Turner’s books. I purchased them in an indie bookstore near her and she dropped by to sign them. The shipping for the books cost just as much as the actual cost of the books. So yes on the ouchie on the wallet part.

        When will your moratorium end? 😀 I feel like I’ve been good lately because I only bought 12 books this year so far. I used to buy so much more last year (like 12 a month) and I’ve mostly been using gift cards that I’ve received.

  2. Sounds like we had similar feelings. For me it was when Timou (not fond of that name btw because it makes me think of The Lion King) left the village. I saw real potential there when she was with Jonah and her father in the village, reading all those tomes and wondering about her mother. Then everyone split up and I really lost interest. Not sure but I think it was a combination of the MCs and the forest/Hunter that just weren’t compelling enough. Ah well, great reads wouldn’t exist without okay ones. 🙂 Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be reading anything else by Neumeier in the future.

    Btw did you see any Shinn/Marillier similarities beyond the sorceress? Those kind of comparisons can give you unrealistic expectations.

    • Based on what we talked about on Twitter, it really looks like we had similar reactions to this one. It started out well but you’re right, the story wasn’t that compelling when Timou started on her quest. And yes about the Hunter too! He could’ve been a stronger character. I might pick up her other books but I’m not in any hurry to do so.

      Aside from this one being a fantasy book, I didn’t really see a lot of similarities to Shinn/Marillier. 😦

  3. Aww, I’m sorry that The City in the Lake didn’t work for you, Chachic! I loved this one to bits. I’m glad you gave it a chance though. Maybe you’ll like The Floating Islands a bit more?

    (And to answer the question about the Shinn and Marillier comparisons, I thought the general tone of the story and structure of the plot – with a young girl on a quest through a magically dangerous wood, and the lush writing style – felt *very* much like these two authors. Of course, we all see and read things differently!)

    • Thea, believe me, I feel bad as well. 😦 But yes, I’m willing to give books that you and Ana recommend a chance. I’m already on the look out for a copy of Chime.

      I was thinking about that today, actually, and realized that it was probably the writing that reminded other readers of Shinn and Marillier. I can see where you’re coming from with that kind of analogy and felt sad that I didn’t feel that with this one. Oh well, like I mentioned in my reply to Charlotte, we can’t all like the same things.

  4. Sad that you didn’t love this book…I remember you were very excited to get a copy. Still, the premise sounds interesting so I will probably give it a try.:)

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