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The Sinking City Book Review


The Sinking City book review. From the description…

“Venice is a carnival of opposites, and Liona Carvatti thinks she understands it all: canal and palace, magician and merchant, plague and pantomime. As a patrician’s daughter, Liona enjoys the sparkling life of a noble family–although she would prefer to be tending to her flowers than practicing violin or standing around in a ball gown. But what Liona fails to realize is that Venice is a city of stone in a world of water. And ruling the dark waters are the Seleni–ageless, cold, and calculating.

When she loses everything she relies on, Liona must set a new course that will shake the foundations of Venice itself.”


The Sinking City by Christine Cohen has become one of my favorite novels. It is set in an alternate history of Venice where a slimy race of creatures known as the Seleni inhabit the dark waters of the lagoon and magicians are responsible for keeping the city afloat. And one particular magician known as Mago Re is by far one of the best characters I have ever known and his house is a festival for the imagination. The whole book is a festival for the imagination!

I am pretty certain that Mago Re is everyone’s favorite character. I mean who wouldn’t fall in love with a cantankerous hermit who is basically possessed by a demon? I can’t think of anyone. And if you think I’m crazy for saying that, you just need to read his dialogue. He is the perfect opposition of grumpiness and humor. That’s right. Mago Re is the comic relief in this story. He’s just the best in every way. Despite his weaknesses, you quickly come to realize he’s an old softie on the inside and you really can’t help but love him.

The quality of writing really sets this book apart. Truly, there are no lazy lines. Each character has been given a unique voice, the descriptions are impeccable, the plot has all of the intrigue of a good fairy tale, the pacing makes it impossible to put the book down, and the narrative voice is captivating from the very beginning. I believe the story is in the young adult genre, so it is great for younger readers, but still captivating enough for adults to enjoy just as well. It’s one of the ya books you need to read.

I would also like to call attention to the love story subplot. I truly appreciate Cohen’s reserved use of romance. The romance subplot is a tasteful slow burn that at no point makes me want to cover my eyes. You know the books where the characters are always kissing and the guy character doesn’t say anything that an actual guy would ever say – I can’t stand that stuff! It’s so unrealistic and gross. Thankfully, Cohen doesn’t write her romances like that! One of the best scenes of the whole novel comes right at the end – you get a little bit of tasteful romance and a little bit of Mago Re in the most perfect combination ever. Love it!

Final Thoughts

The Sinking City is a masterclass in imagination and how to write well. This is exactly the kind of writing that C.S. Lewis was thinking of when he said, “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.” 

We need stories of sacrifice, of courage, and of doing the right thing despite the monsters seeking to trap us. And that’s what this story is really about. As Cohen wrote: 

“This is a story about traps: the ones we run from, the ones we create for ourselves and others, and the ones we must face head-on if we ever want to be truly free.” 

The Sinking City is a great inspirational story. It inspires me to strive to write well, inspires me to think more creatively about the world I am creating, and inspires me to live with all of the love that Aloysius had, even for someone as “undeserving” as Biannca, and to live as forgiving and loyal as Aloysius is with Re. It also inspires me to have more houseplants.

~Get an awesome map of Mago Re’s house below! Courtesy of the book’s cover designer, I believe.~

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