ARC Review: SILK FIRE by Zabé Ellor

I received an ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on turquoise
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 2 stars
Series: standalone


Book cover for SILK FIRE: title in golf with snake graphic curving through it on a shadowed face on turquoise

In the world-sized city of Jadzia, magic and ancient science merge into something dark and wondrous.

Koré’s life is consumed by power, politics, sex and vengeance, and as courtesan to the wealthy and powerful, he is privy to all manner of secrets. He knows meddling in politics is dangerous ─ still, he is willing to risk everything to stop his father from seizing the Imperial Throne of the War District. But Koré soon finds the corruption runs far deeper than just one man.

During a tryst in an ancient tomb ─ in the pursuit of political influence ─ Koré encounters a dying god, who imbues him with the powers of one of the city’s sacred dragons. Suddenly Koré finds himself a hunted man, threatened with becoming a pawn by whoever finds him first.

If the wrong person discovers his secret and lays claim to his powers they would plunge their world into war, unleash untold horrors and destroy the city ─ and the two people he has come to love.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


SILK FIRE is a book I thought I would have a different opinion to the many negative reviews out there for the first 150 pages. But then various new magics were introduced without sufficient explanation and I was utterly lost from then on.

I think my issue was that, without that sufficient explanation of exactly what a dragon could do (and what it could do to Koré) and what on earth the necromancer magic was (or how it worked) I couldn’t follow the plot as so much hinged on understanding those abilities that just came out of nowhere. The world building wasn’t integrated enough into the story to be able to follow.

It felt like the book changed between chapters. It certainly didn’t help that that was the point I had to put the book down for the night. I picked it back up and was very very confused about the next chapter, as it felt like the plot was in a very different place to where I remembered as this was the chapter where the necromancy was introduced.

The introduction of new magics was probably supposed to raise the stakes but the tension of what was at stake also felt missing. I just had garbled accounts of Koré’s experience to say that his father was a bad guy (garbled because he is hiding it and it comes out very slowly over the book in flashbacks.) There was no first hand “ah yes, he is actually awful and will be a bad politician because he’s doing this thing that would be bad for people” examples. Instead, I had to just take Koré’s word for it, which undermined his father as a villain.

SILK FIRE is supposedly set in a matriarchy, but that often felt forgotten (a lot of the characters Koré is up against are men who have found power.) Occassionally there are times when it feels like we’re being “reminded” about the matriarchy with a few (rather clumsy) incidents that are “you are second class citizens), but the effect of that matriarchy didn’t feel relevant and affecting the story or world beyond that.

Overall, after a promising start, it suddenly turned into a very confusing story I struggled to follow.

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