The Witch & The City

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Pub Date 24 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 15 Dec 2023


The prison-city of Osylum floats in the midst of an endless abyss. The reclusive Lady rules it; distant, inscrutable, and never seen. Her will is imposed by the Wardens, eldritch creatures who tend to the convicts’ needs but also ruthlessly purge anyone who tries to escape.

Osylum’s newest inmate, the witch Oneirotheria, has no memory of who she is, where she came from, or why she is imprisoned. Instead, her mind is a mess of spells and lore and other people’s voices. The city mirrors her internal confusion; a jumble of broken buildings covered in hundreds of snippets of graffiti.

As Oneirotheria re-assembles her own shattered past (aided by a few inmates of dubious intent), she learns she may hold not just the key to escape, but the intertwined secrets of the city’s origin and a lost love that transcends countless lives.

For readers of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi and Madeline Miller’s Circe, The Witch & The City introduces a lyrical and baroque fantasy world, where an ocean lurks behind every mirror, puppets pull the strings of the living, and even the skulls have secrets to tell... if a witch knows how to listen.

The prison-city of Osylum floats in the midst of an endless abyss. The reclusive Lady rules it; distant, inscrutable, and never seen. Her will is imposed by the Wardens, eldritch creatures who tend...

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ISBN 9781734664263
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Average rating from 110 members

Featured Reviews

RPG Campaign meets RenFest was my very first thought when I started reading this book. While not the writing style I would pick first as a reader, I know that a lot of people LOVE this type of narration. After the first few chapters I was able to settle into a feel for what was happening and grab ahold of the plot.
As I neared the end of the book I was sure I had it under control - plotlines were resolving and I congratulated myself on guessing something that was going to happen...and then twist after twist after unexpected ending occurred.
My jaw might have actually dropped open when I realized what was going on and I spent some time mentally reviewing all the subtle clues I had missed, but had added up to a wonderfully solved puzzle.

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I am very grateful to have received this as an ARC. It is with great pleasure I leave a 4 star review for this book.

This book is a gem. I should preference this with the fact that I am ordinarily not one to pick up a book if it leans more into poetry or prose. I felt a little overwhelmed in the beginning of this book because of it. It didn’t take long for me to be intrigued but I made sure this was not a book I read before bed! There were times I needed to backtrack a bit to understand what was happening which slowed me down especially when the story lulled a bit towards the middle. This was the only reason why I didn’t give it a full 5-star review. I binged it from around the middle on and it was fantastic. The ending sent me into a tail spin and I sat contemplating all the little details and events throughout the book.

I will be reading the this again!

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I haven't read a truly whimsical book in a long while and I think I've found my new favorite. This also made me look up the author and his other books sound just as interesting. Excited to read more!

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Very atmospheric with a lot of hidden meanings and themes. No one is who they seem. It also is a good standalone book in an age of long series that take years to come to completion (if at all). 4/5 stars.

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Well written prose meets interesting plot. First, thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read this novel. I am not a huge fantasy reader but this book was interesting in learning more about Oneirotheria and the city of Osylum. There was a unique magic system and the plot was written well enough that I didn't guess the twists or end. If you liked Piranesi or The Night Circus you'll enjoy this book a lot.

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OH. EM. GEE!! This book. I had to read snippets to my husband, who isn’t a reader, and even he was left feeling... wow.
Honestly, in the beginning, I was like “What is this hot crap?”. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Things were spoken in riddles. I didn’t understand what the issue or goal was. For a moment, I didn’t want to continue.
But then... a witch was born in a hut with chicken legs. And she was endearing, chaotic, annoying, brave, naïve and kind.
In this floating prison-city, the new foundling witch doesn’t know who she is but has memories of all these words. She doesn’t understand their meanings until the word becomes meaningful. As she follows her distracted curiosity to figure out what the heck is going on and how to escape, she encounters other prisoners in the prison-city. Some helpful. Some not. Some are downright dangerous.
The writing style in The Witch & The City is very lyrical. It has a similar style to Susanna Clarke’s book, Piranesi, but more action and turmoil with unique poetic prose. I felt transported into a world like the movie Pan’s Labyrinth. You know the one where Doug Jones plays the incredible Fauno AND the Pale Man with his creepy eyeballs in the palm of his hands? Google it. It’s like that.
In fact, I demand that Doug Jones play a character or two if this book ever makes it to film. It would be glorious!
If you read Piranesi and didn’t like it, please don’t read The Witch & The City and give it a bad rating because it went over your head or isn’t your vibe. This book is best for those with an unending imagination. It is for lovers of words. Words that you want to gobble up, absorb them into your bone marrow and let them simmer. It is for those who have felt the joy of love and the pain of having your entire being ripped from your center.
I’ll definitely be adding this physical copy to my shelves.

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The Witch and The City was a fantastical and mysterious world, beautifully created. It was full of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat nearly the whole book. I really love this idea, and I think that the author does a really great job of bringing it to life!

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 (4.5/5)

This book gripped me from the start. The writing was so good and well executed. I didn't want to stop reading, but my eyes said no as I'm only just getting used to reading eBooks.

I absolutely loved the world and I was surprised how well I could imagine it, even though the book was short. All the weirdness and how things worked was just so cool. It definitely isn't your ordinary world.

I also loved all the characters. The main character was very intriguing and so loopy that she was an absolute blast to follow. Her personality was a delight. The side characters brought in different pieces and changed how the MC thought a little. Love character development, which there was a lot. And how different everyone was, inside and outside!

I did not see the twists coming and they were so well done that they all made sense. I did not see the ending coming. Though I didn't have time to think ahead as everything was so interesting and kept me in that moment. Immersion was fast and lovely.

I'm not sure what was missing from the book, maybe it was just how short it was that took away the half star. The world was quirky and so different from our own that it drew me in from the first page.

Would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy and doesn't mind some quirkiness in the world they'll be thrown in. I'd love to know what happened to the MC after the end, but it's nice to make up your own adventure too.

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Oh my Goddess! What a dark and beautiful ride this book is. You want you epic witchy ready for the season this is it! I loved every moment!

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Oneirotheria, a fledging witch with fleeting memories of her past life, sets out to escape the prison-city of Osylum.

Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

This is a fantastic read - it takes a bit to get into as the writer has a very whimsical and unique style of writing. The unusual plot is very well thought out and easy to follow once you get into the swing of it. It is full of wonder and magic and you can't help but get sucked right into this weird world. The characters are very well developed. I loved Oneirotheria, I thought she was remarkably funny and easy to connect with.

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This is not the usual witchy story: it's complex, multilayered and the style of writing is quite unusual and using a lot of word that are not usually in a fantasy story.
This is a good book once you get used to the style of writing. It's a good speculative fiction with a surprising twists
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Witchy and whimsical, this book was a lot delight to read! It starts off in chaos, comes together then breaks into chaos again a few times over, but ends in a surprisingly satisfying and neat way and managed to keep me guessing right up until the end.

The Witch & The City by Jake Burnett follows the story of Oneirotheria and we as readers discover the mystery of who, what, where and why she is right alongside her in a strangely lyrical yet very readable prose that I found utterly delightful. It’s easy to see the massive amount of the influences of other authors and stories, and why other reviews have compared it to the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Piranesi to Shakespeare. The titular Witch, Oneirotheria, discovers as much of herself as the readers do along the way starting right from her birth and the same thing can almost be said of the city of Osylum itself, which gives off a steampunk-ish older European feel while still feeling distinctively fantastical. We even get a bit of weird fiction thrown in for good measure, all which keep her exploration and discovery of Osylum and its inhabitants exciting and fresh.

I didn’t pick the twist or the ending, I think I even stopped bothering to speculate at some point and just sat back as I read and enjoyed the ride, not many stories featuring a mystery do that to me. Telling the story in a way that has us know almost everything Oneirotheria does was done in a masterful way, and I have to admit that the tale certainly expanded my vocabulary but not in a way that made me feel like the author was just sitting there with a thesaurus. Personally, I’ve been on a big break from reading and this novel felt like such a good reminder of why reading itself is so enjoyable although I can see that its chaotic nature and sometimes hefty prose won’t be for everyone. It felt like a dense read, yet still a quick one, and I still find myself mulling over its contents a handful of days after completion.

I’d highly recommend this to anyone who loves to explore, learn and discover not only the material in life but human nature itself.

Thanks to NetGalley, South Window Press and the author for providing an advanced copy of the book at my request in exchange for my unbiased review.

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The first few chapters of THE WITCH & THE CITY were not what I was expecting, until it dawned on me that that's exactly how they were supposed to be. The delightful chaos of this world began to be endearing, and as soon as I felt comfortable, Burnett threw in twists and turns that still have my head spinning. To the reader - accept the challenge. It's worth it.

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I received a free copy of this book thanks to NetGalley and South Window Press; all opinions expressed are exclusively my own.

The Witch & The City is a rich, magical, twisted, dark journey, reminding most of the movie Labyrinth in some ways (or even Pan's Labyrinth in others). There are a multitude of references to other works of literature, especially Shakespeare, and every inch of the story drips with mystery and magic. If you like dark, semi-gothic fantasies, I cannot recommend this book strongly enough!

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