The Hidden City by Michelle West

I’ve been eyeing Michelle West’s books for a very long time. When we were teens, my older sister had a copy of her book, The Sun Sword, and I remember staring at the gorgeous cover a lot. As the years passed, it got buried in her bookcase, likely donated and I forgot about it. About a year ago, I came across a review of The Sun Sword and was absolutely ecstatic to read it. But then I realized that was not the place to start this series. I have a tendency to panic buy long series that I worry will eventually go out of stock (this has happened to me before), so I ended up buying her entire Essalieyan series.

I initially read the duology Hunter’s Oath and Hunter’s Death. I loved both so much. I then read book one of The Sun Sword. I went to pick the series back up to continue and found a new suggested reading order which can be found here.

This suggested reading order began with The Hidden City, and as it featured Jewel Markess, one of my favorite characters in the series so far, I couldn’t wait to dive into it.

At the start of The Hidden City, we meet Jewel Markess, also known as Jay. She is an orphan who has been doing her best to survive, and one day she steals from a man named Rafe. Rafe seeks Jewel out to obtain the coin she stole from him, but when he eventually finds her living underneath a bridge and deathly ill, he does what he knows he shouldn’t but can’t fight against and takes her home, bringing her back from the brink of death.

Jewel is confused both by Rafe’s kindness and gruffness. Why did he save her? As the two begin to coexist, Jewel has more and more questions for Rafe, but soon, the two form a bond. It’s not long after she first meets Rafe that he discovers her power- she has visions of the future. She can’t control them, and she rarely knows why she has them, but she knows that she must trust them. As the story unfolds, Jewel has more visions and with the help of Rafe, she acts to fight the terrible pictures they portray. This leads to Jewel saving more orphans living in the slums. They are important; she knows it, but she doesn’t know why, at least at first.

“Some people dream their life away. Some make goals of their dreams. If you don’t fail, it only means you didn’t try.”

-The Hidden City

This book is epic and amazing. Michelle West introduces you to a small part of the Essalieyan Empire, and we see how Jewel Markess gets her start (in The Sacred Hunt duology and Sun Sword series, she is much older).

My favorite part about this book was watching Jewel grow. Her character shifts in that she grows stronger and more confident, but I love how unshakeable her beliefs are. She wants to be the good in the world, and every step she takes, takes her there. Rafe’s adoration of Jewel is evident in the way he acts, even if he never comes out and says it.

“Can you understand that you can spend the whole of your life fighting- both literally and figuratively- to achieve something as fragile as peace? That, having given your life to it, you will lose it, either before your death, or for certain, after it? What will your life have meant then?”

-The Hidden City

At times, this book gave me vibes of Kelsier and Vin’s relationship from Mistborn. That’s not to say they are the same at all, but it’s the best comparison I can offer. I wish more people read this series. I feel like it’s an underrated fantasy, but I know from reading reviews and following Michelle West’s Patreon that her fans are incredibly dedicated to seeing the series be completed. And I am too!

“It will mean that I’ll have tried.”

-The Hidden City

The Hidden City is part of her House War series. I’m going to read the next two books in the House War series before circling back to The Sun Sword series and then eventually finish that and the remaining House War books (since I read The Sacred Hunt duology already, I’m not going to circle back and reread those, but I do agree with the reading order I shared earlier in this post). I think this is an amazing and wonderful start to a series. I’m so excited to see what happens next, but I also plan to take my time reading it. I want to savor every page. It’s exciting to have so much to look forward to.

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