Finnish author Emmi Itaranta’s second novel came across my desk recently, and although I’ve become a little jaded with fantasy offerings of late, the gorgeous cover and interesting premise caught my attention.
The City Of Woven Streets is an elegant fantasy set in an intricately crafted world where dreams are outlawed and those without a craft are considered lessers, and left to fend for themselves. Eliana is a young weaver in the House of Webs, but has a shameful secret – she can dream. If her secret were to be revealed, she would be banished to the House of the Tainted, a prison from which there would be little chance of return.
When an mysterious woman is discovered with her tongue cut off and Eliana’s name tattooed on her skin, she is taken in by the House of Webs, and as Eliana tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her arrival, she discovers an invisible network of power behind the city’s facade, as the sea begins to slowly rise around them, threatening to drown the entire city.
Itaranta does a wonderful job of avoiding the usual tropes associated with the genre, keeping proceedings fresh with beautifully descriptive prose and immersive, richly textured landscapes. Her characterisations are detailed enough to engage without feeling too bloated or overdeveloped (a practice which seems to be rife in modern fantasy) and the character of Eliana herself is expertly understated initially, while at the same time, her predicament intrigues us enough to follow through, and observe her development into a much more complex individual as the narrative flows.
The City Of Woven streets is far more a work of literary fiction than just another mass-produced genre piece. There’s no setup to cash in on an epic series, just a single tale told expertly and eloquently, with compelling characters and a unique style, often thought-provoking and more importantly, entertaining.
Out now from Harper Collins