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Literature: The Drowning City

The Drowning City, a 2009 novel by Amanda Downum, is book 1 of The Necromancer Chronicles, though the books are reasonably stand-alone. It's a Low Fantasy novel in an Asian-inspired setting.

Isyllt Iskaldur, a necromancer, arrives in the city of Symir, the Drowning City, on a secret mission to encourage revolt. Symir is the capital of Sivahra, once an independent nation but now conquered and part of the Assari Empire. The ambitious, expansion-minded Empire may be looking to expand further, and Isyllt's home of Selafai is worried. If they can forment enough chaos in Symir, the Assari will be kept too busy to consider further conquest.

The sequel, The Bone Palace, is set three years later but is not set in Symir; only Isyllt crosses over between the two books.

This book provides examples of:

  • Big Dam Plot: There's a dam. It matters. Any more would be too much of a spoiler.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: Mount Haroun.
  • City of Canals: Symir (it's not called the "Drowning City" for nothing).
  • Demonic Possession: though in this case it's a jinn, not a demon, and it is trapped inside its human host and bound to obey with powerful magical bindings. There's also a case of a human child possessed by the spirit of a dead person that must be exorcised.
  • The Empire: the Assari Empire.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Indonesia, and South-East Asia in general. The author spent some time in Indonesia.
  • La Résistance: the Jade Tigers are the sympathetic resistance to Assari rule, while the Dai Tranh are the darker side.
  • Magitech: Magic reaches fairly high levels of sophistication in this world, including such things as magical hydro power.
  • Low Fantasy: While part of the high-level plot involves international politics, the fate of the world as we know it does not hang in the balance.
  • Necromancer: the protagonist, Isyllt, is of this profession. She can call, trap, and banish ghosts, reanimate the dead for short periods, experience the final memories of the dead, make inanimate objects age and corrode rapidly, invoke cold, and other related talents.
  • Rebel Leader: Jabbor Lhun, leader of the Jade Tigers.
  • Restraining Bolt: the magical seals that the jinn in human form wears, that bind him to serve his master.
  • Well Intentioned Extremists: the Dai Tranh, whose motives (freedom for Sivahra and expulsion of their conquerers) are noble, but their methods , especially their "If you're not with us, you're against us" sentiment and consequent willingness to kill their own people in pursuit of their goals, are abhorrent.
  • Woman in White: Isyllt, at the masked festival. White clearly has the Asian association with death in this culture, and several characters comment on it. She also appears in the grey of mourning later on.

The Necromancer ChroniclesFantasy LiteratureThe Bone Palace
DroodLiterature of the 2000sDuma Key

alternative title(s): The Drowning City
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