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Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black ⇉ Aliens, Mecha Knights, and Unlikely Heroes

Thursday, March 16, 2017
Ninth City Burning has many elements that I enjoy in a good book, least of which is an interesting plot. Aliens, war, and unlikely heroes come to save the world? Count me in!


Detailed World Building
Reading this novel has me constantly amazed by the level of detail that J. Patrick Black has put into this novel. Few books go into the world as in-depth as Black has with the world of Ninth City Burning. I felt like I was right there with the characters experiencing the world with them.

If this book contained the procedure manual for the world, I'm sure someone could easily recreate it with little additional guidance. (Though I wouldn't be surprised if Black had the complete manual lying around somewhere. It's clear that he's very familiar with this world. This book has footnotes—on some pages; don't worry, you don't have to read all of them. But they are interesting and clever!)

Complex Characters
Ninth City Burning is narrated alternately by several different characters as appropriate. Each new one comes in as the time comes for us to see another part of the world; as each new narrator jumps in, so does a new layer of complexity—for the story and for the character. It's rare that I see characters come to life as they did in this novel. It's clear that Black knows his characters as well as he does his world.

I won't specific each narrator or the exact number because I do want to leave some surprises, and knowing who the narrators are ahead of time may spoil something!

"Archaic" References 
Imagine a world where I♡NY, Good Cop / Bad Cop, and Star Wars references have lost their original meaning but continue to float around waiting for the observant reader to spot these relics of another time. Have you ever wondered what future societies would think about our time period? Black gives us a peek into how a post-apocalyptic society at war may view elements of our culture. Such references help break tension (at least, for the reader) at important moments. I myself am partial to the Star Wars references.


Extremely Verbose
Given all the world building, this novel is rather verbose. Given my experience reading classics for which authors were paid by the word, I actually don't really mind the text-heavy nature of this work. It's refreshing in a market where books have cut back heavily on the world building in favor of fast-moving, action-driven plots. However, some readers may have a hard time getting past the first two "acts" (parts) of this novel to the actual war front.

Multiple POVs in the First Person
The book features several different points of views all in the first person. This made it difficult for me to sort the characters in my head until I became better acquainted with them. With multiple POVs, I prefer for the story to be told in the third person as it makes it easier to keep track of the characters.

Furthermore, while narrating a novel through multiple POVs is especially appropriate for world building in a sci-fi fantasy novel, it means sacrificing character development. The more a novel jumps around from character to character, the spend less time we spend with each given character. A good bit of time can pass before we return to one character, so I had some catching up to do each time I became reacquainted with a character. That said, I do acknowledge that this allows us to fast forward through parts of their stories that may not have been so entertaining.


Ninth City Burning is an imaginative, complex debut from J. Patrick Black. Few books have brought a world and its inhabitants to life as Ninth City Burning has for me. I very much enjoyed the time that I spent in this world. (So much, in fact, that this review is actually coming a bit later than I had anticipated—I really wanted to take my time with this one.) While I would love to spend more time discussing the story, this is a novel that you need to read to appreciate the complexity of the world and story. I definitely recommend getting this one if you enjoy a good sci-fi fantasy with good world building and well-developed characters.

I'm looking forward to seeing what J. Patrick Black sends our way next!


We never saw them coming.

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.


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You can also read a guest post by J. Patrick Black on the blog on his "Top 5 (admittedly impractical) Survival Tips for an Alien Invasion."


500 years in the future, what relic of our culture would you like to remain?

Publication Info
  • Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black
  • Published by Ace
  • On September 6, 2016
  • Genres: Science Fiction
  • Pages: 482 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
  1. Ninth City Burning
  2. TBD
  • Violence

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel for review. All thoughts expressed are my personal honest opinions.

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