Danie Ware's Children of Artifice was published by Fox Spirit Books in June 2018.

Information about Danie Ware:

Danie Ware is the author of the Ecko trilogy. Children of Artifice is her latest novel. She lives in South London.

Click here to visit her official website.

Information about Children of Artifice:

An ancient city, sealed in a vast crater. A history of metallurgical magic, and of Builders that could craft the living, breathing stone.

Caphen Talmar is the high-born son of an elite family, descended from the Builders themselves, his artistic career ruined when his ex-lover broke his fingers.

One night, gambling down at the wharfside - somewhere he shouldn’t have been in the first place - he meets Aden. An uncomplicated, rough-edged dockworker, Aden is everything Caph needs to forget the pressures of his father’s constant criticism.

But this isn’t just another one-night stand. Aden is trying to find his sister, and he needs Caph’s help. Soon, they find themselves tangled in a deadly game of trust, lies and political rebellion.

And, as Caph begins to understand the real depth of the horrors they’ve uncovered, he learns that Aden is not what he seems. And Aden knows more about the coming destruction than Caph could ever have guessed.

REVIEW: CHILDREN OF ARTIFICE BY DANIE WARE

Because I enjoyed reading Danie Ware's Ecko trilogy and found it excellent, I was eager to read her new novel, Children of Artifice. I'm happy to say that this novel was everything I hoped it would be, because it's an impressive and enticingly original novel with depth, darkness and nuanced characterisation. Its skillful blend of metallurgical magic, love and politics resonated with me in a way that only a few other modern fantasy novels ever have.

Children of Artifice is, at its heart, a fantasy novel, but it's actually much more than just fantasy fiction, because it has strong elements of science fiction, horror and dark fantasy. These elements set it apart from other fantasy novels and make it a fresh and gripping read for adult readers. It's a beautiful yet dark reading experience that will immerse readers in a fascinating and fresh fantasy world.

When I began to read this novel, I immediately noticed that it has been written out of passion for storytelling. The author has put a lot of love and care into writing the story as well as possible and has made sure that it's captivating and becomes increasingly compelling towards the end as everything culminates into a magnificent and harrowing climax.

Here's a bit of information about the story:

The story begins with Caphen Talmar suffering from a massive hangover. He remembers gambling down at the wharfside and meeting the young dockworker Aden with whom he had a hot and passionate encounter... Caph's ex-lover Molly, who hurt his fingers, is free and Caph's afraid of what he might do to him... When Caph returns home, his mother is upset and has had enough of his behaviour and demands obedience. He feels trapped and wants to be free... Aden visits his sister who lives in District Vanchar. When he arrives at his sister's home, he notices that his sister's belongings are scattered all over the floor and she is missing. He also sees that something strange and threatening is moving inside the house... Soon Aden and Caph notice that they've uncovered something dangerous...

This marks the beginning of a story that gradually grows into a captivating tale of love, family, magic and politics that leaves readers wanting more.

I was deeply impressed by the characterisation, because it is nuanced, subtly complex and realistic. The protagonists, Caph and Aden, are brought vividly to life during the story. The secondary characters are also well-developed and they bring additional depth to the story.

Caph is the high-born son of an elite family. He hates his status and feels trapped (he often feels the need to lose himself and forget where he comes from). He doesn't get along with his parents, because they try to control him and force him to be part of the family in a way that doesn't suit him.

Caph's fascination with music and his yearning to play again is explored well, because he used to be the finest musician of his generation, but his fingers were broken by his ex-lover. The loss of his ability to play music has affected him in a profound way, because he experienced brutal violence in a relationship and has been damaged both mentally and physically.

I have to mention that Caph's relationship with his ambitious parents is handled extremely well. What happens between Caph and his parents is surprisingly realistic, because the author doesn't shy away from emotional brutality. What complicates matters further for Caph is that his family has a servant who has a special kind of discreet loathing for him.

Aden is an enigmatic man who has an unusual ability that makes him special: he can change his face and become somebody else. Aden doesn't know who he truly is or what his true name may be, because he was found by a man who took care of him and his sister, Lyss.

The homosexual relationship between Caph and Aden is beautifully depicted. Danie Ware does an excellent job at fleshing out how they become infatuated by each other and fall in love. She fluently tells of how they feel about each other and how they deal with their feelings, because life is not easy for either of them due to their backgrounds. What happens between them is unexpected and they're both a bit surprised by their own feelings, because they haven't been looking for anything serious. What started out as a one-night stand turns into something more serious.

There's something about the author's way of writing about the romance between the protagonists that reminds me of certain romantic and sexual elements in Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner novels. I think that readers who are familiar with Flewelling's novels will enjoy this novel. I also believe that this novel will appeal to readers who have read Robert Jackson Bennett's Foundryside.

In my opinion, the author excels at writing about what kind of needs people have and how a person can let himself go and lose control for a while, because there are times when people may feel the need to escape their lives. I respect the author for writing about the need for companionship, love and sex in a bold and unabashed way, because it brings emotional depth and fascination to the story.

The worldbuilding is satisfyingly original, because the author writes about humans who live in an ancient city inside a gigantic crater. The humans were put there long ago by semi-mythical and mysterious beings called the Builders who sealed the crater. The Builders were able to craft the stone, mould shapes without tools and create creatures from the rock. The Outside is forbidden and it is believed that there's nothing out there.

This novel has many themes and issues that will interest readers. Such things as family, duty, identity, love, happiness, violence, change, prejudice and society are deftly explored within the contraints of the story. I think it's possible that several readers will be able to relate to some of them, because they're relevant and important themes and issues.

I was intrigued by what the author wrote about family, because Caph felt trapped by his family and longed to be free. The relationship between Caph and his father is handled exceptionally well, because the author writes about how ambitious Caph's father is and what kind of things he expects from his son (what Caph's father thinks about his son's sexuality and his behaviour is described in an achingly realistic way). I was also impressed by how Aden felt about his identity and existence, because he knew nothing about what he is or where he comes from. Reading about his anguish over not knowing who he truly is was touching.

The author writes excellently about how society controls the individuals and how control is maintained in the city. I won't go into details about this, because I want to avoid writing major spoilers, but I can mention that reading about it is fascinating.

The story has a delicate and intricate balance between beauty and grittiness, because tenderness, love and joy are balanced by pain, savagery and tragedy. During the story, readers are subjected to various emotions and feelings in a touching yet harsh and effective way. There are a few dark and brutal scenes that will most likely shock and surprise many readers.

I give this novel full five stars on the scale from one to five stars, because I found myself thoroughly captivated by the story and enjoyed reading about the characters and their lives. I liked this novel so much that I can hardly wait to get my hands on the sequel.

The cover image by Sarah Anne Langton looks beautiful. It fits the story perfectly and echoes its atmosphere in an effective way.

Danie Ware's Children of Artifice is one of the freshest and most compelling fantasy novels of the year, because it's something different. It's a thoroughly compelling and highly enjoyable novel that deserves to be read. If you enjoy reading fascinating stories with depth, original worldbuilding and excellent characterisation, you should read this novel without hesitation.

Highly recommended!

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