The Emperor’s Railroad (Dreaming Cities #1) by Guy Haley
Post-Apocalyptic | Fantasy
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Released April 19, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
My boyfriend often gets bored when we’re at the library. He’s not really a reader, so while I’m spending an exorbitant amount of time walking between the shelves, piling up books until I reach my maximum checkout limit, he gets a bit antsy. Last time we went together, he decided to help me pick out some short books to read because I’m way behind on my Goodreads challenge.
Fortunately for me, he came back with The Emperor’s Railroad, a book I had never heard of but wanted to read as soon as I saw the first paragraph of the synopsis on the back cover:
“Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.”
That is everything I need in a book. Post-apocalyptic fiction has long been my favorite genre, so I started reading it that same night.
This book is very short – just 176 pages – and I was able to finish it in a single day. I enjoyed the setting right away. Most post-apocalyptic fiction is mixed with elements of science, such as nuclear war, bioengineered viruses, EMP attacks, death from the cosmos, that sort of thing. In this book, however, author Guy Haley has written a post-apocalyptic fantasy book, complete with knights and talking dragons.
I can’t recall ever reading a book that featured both zombies and dragons, so that was an aspect of the book that I really loved.
The story (at least in book one of the series) is told from the point-of-view of a twelve-year-old boy named Abney. He and his mother meet up with a Knight named Quinn on the road, and he agrees to help them travel the dangerous roads to a village in the north where they have a relative.
The first twenty or so pages, the way the story was told annoyed me a little, but I got used to it. Abney’s voice is undeniably young and imperfect, especially since there’s not much education left in this world. Abney grew on me a lot though, and by the end, I was glad that the story was told from his perspective.
The most fascinating character in the book is definitely Quinn. He’s a Knight, appointed by Angels, although he chooses not to wear his badge showing which city he is from. Quinn is quiet and mysterious, and by the end of The Emperor’s Railroad, I found myself both intrigued and a little confused. In a good way, though – I’ve already reserved the second book in this duology from the library.
As this is a fantasy story, there’s some world-building, but I’m still a little unsure of the specifics of it. We learn quite a bit in The Emperor’s Railroad, but I hope it’s heavily expanded upon in book two. There were several times in the book where I wasn’t sure if the characters were referring to something literal or figurative; for example, the Angels that are frequently discussed are never shown in this book, and I feel there’s an equal chance that they’re either actual Angels or that they’re just people posing as angelic beings. I also found myself wanting to learn more about the politics of this world and the hierarchy of the rulers.
There are very few authors who can pull off something like combining zombies with dragons in a post-apocalyptic world, but Guy Haley definitely succeeded.
I’m thrilled to have discovered this duology via my bored boyfriend randomly pulling books from our library’s shelves. I can’t wait to read book two, The Ghoul King. If you enjoy genre-bending fantasy stories with mysterious characters and good suspense, do yourself a favor and pick this series up.