A Stranger in the Citadel

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Pub Date 17 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 22 Jan 2024

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Description

From powerful storyteller Tobias Buckell (Crystal Rain, The Tangled Lands), a complex novel of humanity’s passion for the written word. At the revolutionary crossroads of magic, betrayal, and long-forgotten truths, a naïve, compassionate royal and a determined, hunted librarian discover a dangerous world of mortal and ancient menaces.

“With A Stranger In The Citadel, Tobias Buckell writes to the moment we live in, with a clarity and urgency that only fable can provide. Read it.”
—John Scalzi, author of The Kaiju Preservation Society

The life of the youngest musketress of Ninetha has been one of hard training. But Lilith’s days have also contained many pleasures, the royal privileges of her family’s guardianship of the Cornucopia, a mystical source of limitless bounty. Lilith has never seen a book, and she never expects to encounter one within the safety of the citadel.

When Ishmael, an outcast librarian, shows up outside the Afriq Gate, Lilith saves him from immediate execution by her father’s second-in-command, the zealot Kira. As Lilith’s curiosity draws her to Ishmael, she lets slip her family’s most dangerous secret to Kira, sparking a deadly rebellion and an unexpected journey full of stunning revelations.

From powerful storyteller Tobias Buckell (Crystal Rain, The Tangled Lands), a complex novel of humanity’s passion for the written word. At the revolutionary crossroads of magic, betrayal, and...


A Note From the Publisher

Called “compulsively readable” by Maclean’s, science-fiction author Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times bestselling writer and World Fantasy Award winner. He is biracial, and was born in the Caribbean, grew up in Grenada, and spent time in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. His Xenowealth series begins with Crystal Rain. Along with other stand-alone novels and his almost one hundred stories, Buckell’s works have been translated into twenty different languages, and he has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Buckell currently lives in Bluffton, Ohio, with his wife and two daughters. He’s online at www.TobiasBuckell.com.

Called “compulsively readable” by Maclean’s, science-fiction author Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times bestselling writer and World Fantasy Award winner. He is biracial, and was born in the...


Advance Praise

Newsweek Staffers' Favorite Books of 2023

“Buckell’s writing always satisfies, and A Stranger in the Citadel brings it: tense, explosive oh-my-god-what-will-they-do-now action; appealing characters you care about, even when you deplore what they do; rich, surprising worldbuilding; a fascinating story of words and the people who guard them. Gotta love hero librarians, especially in times like these.”
—Nalo Hopkinson, author of Falling in Love with Hominids

“With A Stranger In The Citadel, Tobias Buckell writes to the moment we live in, with a clarity and urgency that only fable can provide. Read it.”
—John Scalzi, author of The Kaiju Preservation Society

[STARRED REVIEW] “Buckell’s latest (after The Tangled Lands, 2018, with Paolo Bacigalupi) begins by deceiving readers, presenting a postapocalyptic setting as fantasy, gradually dropping clues to the reader relating to our current world. Protagonist and narrator Lilith, the youngest musketress of Ninetha, privileged with guardianship of the mystical Cornucopia which provides for all of the city’s needs, is equally unaware of her world’s history, largely because books and reading were banned in exchange for the Cornucopias. When a librarian, Ishmael, stumbles into Ninetha as the first visitor in a generation, Lilith’s actions to defend him ripple into the destruction of her home and family by her own mentor, Kira, who was offended by the family’s heresy of secretly owning a single book and hoarding the provisions from the Cornucopia. When Lilith flees Ninetha with Ishmael, she discovers how sheltered her worldview was as he shares tales of his travels and his love of learning. Inspired by Fahrenheit 451, Buckell masterfully crafts this coming-of-age story for a strong, compassionate heroine who needed a bit of reality thrust upon her.”
—Booklist

A Stranger in the Citadel is a powerful story that explores the strength of the written word and those who fear it. Tobias Buckell has crafted a disturbing and page-turning tale of banned books, outlaw librarians, killer angels, and world changing secrets—set in a far flung dystopian future that chillingly resonates with our present.”
—P. Djèlí Clark, author of Ring Shout

“Tobias Buckell packs a trilogy’s worth of action and invention into this riotously-paced novel, which builds to a moving conclusion. It's an exciting and surprising book, a thriller which also happens to be a thoughtful meditation on power, knowledge and loyalty.”
—Alastair Reynolds, author of the Revelation Space series

A Stranger in the Citadel is a smartly-written book, full of deep, layered worldbuilding and complex relationships, all built around a thoughtful exploration of the power of story.”
—Jim C. Hines, author of Libriomancer

“The message about the importance of literacy could not be more timely, and Buckellʼs sure-handed plotting keep the pages flying. Readers will be hooked.”
—Publishers Weekly

“A fast-moving plot, and the right amount of supernatural elements—all expertly used to immerse you in the story.”
—SF Signal

VERDICT: In World Fantasy Award winner Buckell’s (The Trove) latest, Lilith undergoes a journey from innocence to terrible experience. Recommended for readers who enjoy stories that reveal in layers and any who liked the postapocalyptic, flawed reconstruction of knowledge in The Starless Crown by James Rollins.”
—Library Journal

“Riffing on classics like Fahrenheit 451, Buckell creates a future world in which largesse is provided through giant machines known as the cornucopia and books and knowledge are spurned.”
Pile by the Bed

A Stranger in the Citadel has some of the most creative and captivating world-building I’ve read in a while!”
Potions and Puzzles

“Riffing on classics like Fahrenheit 451, Buckell creates a future world in which largesse is provided through giant machines known as the cornucopia and books and knowledge are spurned.”
Pile by the Bed

“Some of the most creative and captivating world-building I’ve read in a while!”
Potions and Puzzles

Praise for Tobias Buckell

[STARRED REVIEW] “Buckell has written a smart and well-constructed tale that’s filled with excitement and the flavor of the Caribbean isles.”
Kirkus

“Buckell’s consistent efforts at creating marketable novels with crossover potential can be seen as revolutionary acts, attempts to stand the genre’s financial hierarchy on its head. Technical competence and knowledge of one’s intended audience become tools for resisting erasure.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Buckell delivers double helpings of action and violence in a plot-driven story worthy of a good blockbuster.”
Publishers Weekly

“A writer to shelve there with C. J. Cherryh, Alastair Reynolds, Dan Simmons and those few other writers who have managed to adopt the advantages of mainstream literature without giving up the skilled storytelling and sense of wonder of old-style SF.”
Critical Mass

“If the Hernandez Brothers of Love and Rockets fame could channel Arthur Clarke and Hal Clement, they’d probably write like Tobias Buckell. His multicultural protagonists and point of view, combined with his hard-SF inclinations and expertise, conspire to deliver freshly conceived and spicy-flavored space opera.”
Sci-Fi Weekly

A Stranger in the Citadel (Tachyon Publications) by Grenada-raised Tobias Buckell presents a compassionate allegory for humanity’s peaceful coexistence and survival, through the lens of speculative fiction. Focusing on the thorny relationship between a warrioress who has never seen a book, and a fugitive librarian fleeing dangerous reprisals, A Stranger in the Citadel is awash with political intrigue, often highlighting the fundamental breakdown between official pronouncements and the lives of the working-class people that superpowers are meant to serve.
Trinidad Daily Express


Newsweek Staffers' Favorite Books of 2023

“Buckell’s writing always satisfies, and A Stranger in the Citadel brings it: tense, explosive oh-my-god-what-will-they-do-now action; appealing characters...


Marketing Plan

* National marketing plan to include prepublication endorsements including targeting reviews and interviews to include NPR, the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Review of Science Fiction, Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle
   * Author tour to include regional and national author appearances and readings
   * Online features to include Instagram tour (Storygram), blog tour, Reddit AMA, and author and publisher social media campaign
    * Print and digital ARC distribution via Goodreads, NetGalley, and Edelweiss+
  * Cover reveal and book launch event TBD

* National marketing plan to include prepublication endorsements including targeting reviews and interviews to include NPR, the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Review of Science Fiction, ...


Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781616963989
PRICE $17.95 (USD)
PAGES 256

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Average rating from 24 members


Featured Reviews

Is freedom from suffering worth the loss of literacy? A STRANGER IN THE CITADEL is a powerful fable on the power of myth, and the importance of finding your own truth. Lilith is born to power and privilege as a daughter of the Lord of Ninetha. Yet, despite having the responsibility of defending the city as a musketress, she is closely watched by guardians, and not allowed to walk unescorted in its streets. The walled city and its citadel, as well as the mysterious workings of the bountiful cornucopia that provides but which no one understands, are strong metaphors of the power of knowledge, and the reverse of its dearth. Fear, blasphemy and doom haunt Ninetha, but the real curse and heresy may be closer than they think.

It had a slightly slow start, but definitely had me towards the second act. I love books about books, and this one delivered. Thanks Tachyon and Netgalley for the free e-galley.

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A Stranger in the Citadel is a SF/F novel by author Tobias S. Buckell. The novel was originally an Audible audiobook "original" in 2021 and is now being published in actual print (and ebook) in 2023 by Tachyon Publications, a publisher who tends to publish a lot of really interesting short novels from SF/F authors. It's a novel that Buckell notes was inspired by Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in that it features a world where literacy - reading and writing - is a heresy of the highest order and punishable by death. But unlike other novels I've read with similar concepts, where protagonists get introduced to reading and find it magical and seek to change the world, Buckell takes a different tack.

Instead we have a world where reading and writing genuinely is dangerous and the world without it - where stories are told and retold by griots and food is provided by magical cornucopias - is seemingly okay...until a "Librarian" arrives with a book and our protagonist, the Musketress (princess) Lilith tries to spare his life out of mercy. The resulting tale of revolution, of privilege and corruption and power, of love, friendship and human curiosity is fascinating and goes in paths you very much won't expect and is well well worth your time.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse is referred to, although it's never seen on page, as a horror inflicted by one of the early antagonists. It shouldn't affect readers too much, but if it does, it's there.


Plot Summary:
Lilith is the youngest Musketress of Ninetha - the youngest daughter of Ninetha's ruler, the Lord Musketeer. It's a life full of hard training under the tutelage of her father's second in command, Kira, as the Lord Musketeer and Lilith's family are the guardians of the Cornucopia, the magical source of anything one seeks that was given to the people by the Gods. All the Gods ask for in return is that their commandments are obeyed, the most important of which is this: "You Shall Not Suffer a Librarian to Live."

Lilith has almost never seen a book and certainly does not know how to read or what a book might contain....but she has peaked into the hidden room in the Citadel that her siblings guard for her father, and there she knows lies the biggest heresy of all: A book hidden away. But the existence of the book is a strange curiosity she dares not ask about and she has no intention of trying to discover its secrets. Until one day, a Librarian is found entering the city and is taken to be killed and Lilith can't simply let him be murdered for something she doesn't quite understand...and Lilith's actions ignite a fire that will change all of Ninetha, and Lilith's life, forever....
A Stranger in the Citadel starts with a setup that the reader may find familiar and carry certain expectations. Lilith lives in a city where literacy is forbidden and reading is punishable by death, where the only book she has ever seen is the secret one her father has her siblings guard and that she knows basically nothing about. Her father is the King essentially of this city and basically rules over a magical source of endless food/resources/anything-else-people-need....which he controls in a way to keep people beholden to him, such that there is still poverty and hunger and nobles who want more. Lilith's tutor and her father's second in command Kira is a commoner who is a devout believer in the god's rules and does not countenance heresy of any kind. Lilith is compassionate and caring and, while she's devoted to her training under Kira and is skilled with her musket, she is privileged enough not to wonder whether any of this might be wrong - and she's even privileged from the perspective of her siblings, who have learned the hard way that things aren't quite as idyllic as they seem.

In this type of story, usually what you'd expect to happen, especially when a man carrying books appears in the first few pages, is for Lilith to secretly sneak time with the Librarian, learn the joys of reading and either escape or lead a revolution with the aid of what she learns from literacy. This is...not that book. Lilith is caring and curious but she is a believer in the gods - who have provided the Cornucopia - and is not one to immediately turn away from what she knows and believes...even when things turn to an utter disaster and she finds herself on the run with the Librarian Ishmael. Similarly, the story seems like it's some kind of SciFi future of our world...and it is, but not quite in the way the reader, or one of the characters, would have ever expected. And while the story does to a certain extent tell a tale dealing with how valuable it is to know how to read and write, the story also notes how society is able to function through griots and repeated recollections to keep stories remembered throughout history.

What we have here instead of the usual is a story of corruption and power and abuse of that power, and of the people rising up upon discovering a betrayal by the one who mistreated them. It's a story of how people who are corrupt in one way may be abusive in even more horrifying ones and how even a revolution that displaces those people may not necessarily result in a better place. It's also a story about how hard it is to change such things, and how people can continue to believe in certain ideas and things well past them remembering where those things came from or if they still matter. And it's a journey of Lilith growing up and being shocked out of her privilege until she's ready to chart a new path, one which she's no longer naive enough to get killed over.

It's pretty good and surprising and not too long, so well worth your time now that it's in ebook format in other words. Recommended.

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Sometimes you start book and you feel enthralled by the plot and the storytelling. It happened with this book, I was in love with this story since the moment Lilith sees her first book as we are introduced to this complex and intriguing world building.
There’s a very original magical system, strong characters and emotions, it’s one of those cases you would be happy if this was a series and you could learn more about this world.
Tobias S. Buckell can writes and I want to read some of the other series as I thoroughly enjoyed this story
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Tachyon Publications for this digital copy, all opinions are mine

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"The gods say, "You shall not suffer a librarian to live." How can you not love that opening line? It's the well-crafted hook that pulls you into a searing, fierce, and uniquely imagined tale about Lilith, a young woman who lives in a society where books and reading are outlawed (on pain of death), where stories and knowledge are passed down through generations without the help of ink or paper, and where people's food and supplies come from a strange device called a "cornucopia". When Lilith meets Ishmael, a wandering librarian, her whole world is upended.

Buckell's world feels both unsettlingly familiar and disturbingly alien as we glimpse shadows of a lost history in snippets of story, myth, and place names. I loved every bit of this tale, and the revelations along the way that turns both Lilith's and the reader's understanding of her world and its history on its head. Here, old speculative fiction threads are woven into a new pattern and the end-result is a sharp and haunting tale of humanity's strengths and weaknesses, our brightest hopes and darkest fears.

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I am a huge fan of Tobias S. Buckell's writing and have recommended his short stories collection to friends and fellow readers. In a previous review of Buckell's work, I noted that he excels in short fiction writing because the form (in my opinion) is notoriously tricky to write. It was with great excitement and curiosity that I approached his longer work - the novel A Stranger in the Citadel.

Buckell chose to tell the story through Lilith, the youngest musketress of Ninetha. Her boundless curiosity leads her to save the librarian Ishmael from an immediate execution, thus leading them (and the readers) on a quest for knowledge, truth and discoveries they might not have expected.

A Stranger in the Citadel is a masterfully written and powerful work. It is a wondrous and compelling blend of an adventurous quest and a reflective, thought-provoking work. Everything about A Stranger in the Citadel (characters, plot, prose) is memorable. In less than 250 pages Buckell crafted complex and bewitching characters while simultaneously creating a rich, vivid and diverse world and backstory. His mastery of the art of writing short stories superbly translated to a longer form, giving the readers an enjoyable and reflective read.

It is hard for me to eloquently express how important and relevant the story (and the characters) of A Stranger in the Citadel are; especially at this time when books are being banned across the US (and I'm certain elsewhere in the world, although we don't get as much coverage about that ). Stories like this one encourage the readers to ask questions, to reflect on their preconceptions, on what they know and what they are taught (or not taught) and why are hugely important. Now, more than ever we need more books like this one.

I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to pick up A Stranger in the Citadel, even if the reason to pick the book up is to find out why the words "You shall not suffer a librarian to live." are on the cover of the book. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

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