Awakened City

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After centuries of oppression, the Empire of Arsace has finally reclaimed the capital city of Ninyaser and the First Temple of the Gods. But the powerful Brethren will tolerate no challenge to their rule, and an expedition to destroy the secret colony of Refuge, home to ancient mysteries and forbidden sorcery, has proved the catalyst for war.

Ravar, the most powerful of the hidden Shapers, vows revenge against the Brethren. Raising an army of worshippers and kidnapping the seer ...

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After centuries of oppression, the Empire of Arsace has finally reclaimed the capital city of Ninyaser and the First Temple of the Gods. But the powerful Brethren will tolerate no challenge to their rule, and an expedition to destroy the secret colony of Refuge, home to ancient mysteries and forbidden sorcery, has proved the catalyst for war.

Ravar, the most powerful of the hidden Shapers, vows revenge against the Brethren. Raising an army of worshippers and kidnapping the seer Axane to help him in his quest, he travels to the holy city of Baushpar itself as the Empire prepares for battle. Meanwhile, leaving his peaceful life behind to save Axane, the Shaper Gyalo has a startling epiphany.

Against a backdrop of war, insurrection, and sacrifice, two powerful Shapers must discover who is the true Next Messenger, for their quest will lead either to salvation or destruction.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
A fantasy epic fueled by fanatical religious ideology reminiscent of Walter M. Miller Jr.'s Hugo Award-winning dystopian classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, this concluding volume of Victoria Strauss' Way of Ârata duology (and sequel to 2004's The Burning Land) continues the trials and tribulations of Gyalo Amdo Samchen, a devout Âratist -- the principal religion of the continent Galea -- whose unwavering faith brands him a heretic, an outcast and an unlikely prophet.

As a vengeance-obsessed madman named Râvar -- who saw his entire community destroyed by religious zealots -- makes his way toward the city of Baushpar, the headquarters of the Âratist Church, so too does Gyalo, the exiled monk who is believed to be dead by the rest of the world. Bent on destroying the Âratist faith and its immortal Brothers and Sisters, Râvar is posing as the Next Messenger, the much-prophesized herald of the god Ârata's awakening. With an army of devoted followers at his back, the false prophet charges headlong toward what will surely be an apocalyptic showdown. Gyalo, meanwhile, struggles to find a way to save his family, his faith, and thousands of innocent disciples…

Like A Canticle for Leibowitz, Strauss' The Awakened City explores deeply reflective themes like the true meaning of faith, the dangers of zealotry, and the very dodgy non-spiritual influences of organized religion -- which in turn expose deeper questions concerning morality, redemption, and the ultimate question: Why do we exist? Fantasy fans who enjoy highly intelligent, profoundly thought-provoking works should definitely check out the Way of Ârata duology -- the gospel according to Strauss. Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly
In Strauss's cautionary tale of religious mania, the gripping sequel to The Burning Land (2004), two men of the land of Galea, Ruvar and Gyalo, vie for the role of "Next Messenger," the herald of Arata, the principal but sleeping deity of a complex religion. Ruvar knows he's a False Messenger, while Gyalo believes, with growing horror, that he may actually be the Next Messenger. Gyalo is more concerned, however, with rescuing his wife, the seer Axane, from Ruvar, who kidnaps her as part of a plan to avenge the destruction of Refuge, a community of Aratist refugees. Through the two protagonists' opposing viewpoints, the author dramatically explores issues of religious oppression and transformation. While Strauss constructs the early part of the story to help the uninitiated and provides a glossary at the end, readers would do best to start with The Burning Land. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061242830
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464

Meet the Author

Victoria Strauss was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, and graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in comparative religion. She wrote her first novel when she was seventeen during a year off between high school and college. The author of The Burning Land, Garden of the Stone, and Arm of the Stone, Strauss lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her husband and three cats.

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Read an Excerpt

The Awakened City

By Victoria Strauss

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Victoria Strauss
All right reserved.

ISBN: 038097892X

Chapter One

The Messenger

He wore light -- shimmering veils and coils of it, moving around him as he walked. It was not the natural radiance of his flesh, which only he could see, but illusion, shaped from the substance of the air. Beneath it he was as he had first come to them, naked but for a breechclout and the cloak of his long black hair. It was cold in the passage -- the cold of rock, of deep subterranean places -- and his body was tense with chill. A heavy golden chain lay around his neck. From it, cased in gold, hung an amber -- colored crystal larger than a man's clenched fist, with a heart of flame.

The passage kinked. He could hear the crowd -- a rushing sound that reminded him, briefly, of the hiss of wind across the meadows of his lost home. Ahead, a slash of brightness split the passage's black. He increased his pace, launching himself into the illumination as if into water.

Below, on the tumbled and stalagmited floor of a deep cavern, his faithful massed more than a thousand strong. To his Shaper senses they were not just a throng of men and women, but a roiling play of color and light, stippled here and there with the ordinary flame of torches. At the sight of him, they roared. He stood above them on the ledge he had made,his radiant arms spread wide, their adulation pouring like sunlight into the dark void at his center. He was warm now, warm as the heat patterns the torches printed on the substance of the air. He threw back his head and laughed.

"People!" he shouted. The natural acoustics of the cavern sent his voice pealing out above the clamor. "People of the Promise!"

"Fulfiller of the Promise!" they shouted back. "He who opens the way!"

"People of the new age!"

"Guardian of Interim, who speaks the word of the risen god!" "People of Arata!"

"Beloved of Arata, who sets our feet upon the Waking Road!"

He was not certain when these phrases had become invariable. In the beginning, his calls and their responses had altered with each ceremony. But now the cadences were constant, as if they were part of a true religious rite, and not the basest and most final blasphemy.

He gathered himself and leaped outward into nothingness, focusing his will upon the air below his feet so that it grew slow and thick, allowing him to drift leaflike to the cavern's floor. Unlike the illusory brilliance in which he was clad, this was real shaping, accompanied by the flash and thunder all transformation made; but to his followers, who because of the strange proscriptions of this world had never witnessed unfettered shaping, his descent was not the exercise of a human power, but a miracle. He allowed his shimmering attire to billow as he fell, so they might glimpse his body; he knew thathe was beautiful to both men and women, and that for many, faith was most urgent when it was bound to carnal longing.

He alighted gently on the broken rock. Before him, his followers were a scintillating wall -- men and women and children, young and middle -- aged and elderly, individuals and couples and even families. There were soldiers here, and blacksmiths, and seamstresses, and prostitutes; there were people who had given up their wealth to join him and people who had owned nothing to sacrifice. There were those who had passed all their lives in virtue and those who had followed the most violent of criminal pursuits. Yet in that place, in that moment, they were all alike, for they were all his creatures -- stolen souls, every one of them, blackened past any point of cleansing with the blasphemy into which he had enticed them. The wonder and dread and desire in their faces seemed to flow from a single heart.

He stepped toward them. They parted like grass, those closest to him sinking to their knees. Slowly he walked among them, his hands held before him, palms out, so they could see the terrible scars the Blood of Arata had inflicted when he brought it out of the Burning Land. They were allowed to touch his wounds if they dared, and many did, quick feather-brushes of finger on finger, palm on palm -- and occasionally a brief warm shock on ankle or hip or shoulder, as those driven by greater courage or greater need sought a more intimate contact. It had taken an act of will in the beginning to endure it, but over time it had become part of the larger thing he had learned to crave: their awe, their adoration, which for a little while filled up the emptiness in him where those same passions once had lived.

"Messenger," they sighed. "Beloved One. Most beautiful."

He made a single circuit of the cavern. Then he left them for the heights above, thickening the air before him to make a kind of invisible stairway he could climb. That was far more difficult than the trick he had performed to descend -- beyond the capacity of most Shapers, in fact -- but to his huge gift it was nothing. On the overhang again, he turned toward the faithful. They responded -- not a roar this time, but a rumble, a mutter, which was somehow more powerful than the greater noise. He imagined he could feel it under his bare feet.

"People of the Promise."

"Beloved One." Many held up their palms, showing him the proof of their faith. "Child of Arata."

"You who have gathered here in Arata's name. You who have woken to the truth. You who in understanding have chosen me, and thus become my father's chosen. Look upon the sign my father has given, the sign of his rising, the sign of his will, the sign that his age -- old promise soon will be fulfilled."


Excerpted from The Awakened City by Victoria Strauss Copyright © 2006 by Victoria Strauss. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    timely cautionary tale

    In Galea, the Empire of Arsace has begun to throw off the oppression of centuries and regain what was lost especially the First Temple of the Gods in Ninyaser. The Brethen, refusing to lose what they have held for centuries, attack the city of wizards Refuge beyond the Burning Lands. War is imminent on both the mundane and mystical levels. --- Ravar wants to be acclaimed the Next Messenger to the sleeping powerful deity Arata though he knows he is a false messenger. His plan is to cleverly use the assault on Refuge, the upcoming war and most critical the seer Axane to further his ambitions. He travels to Baushpar and abducts Axane. However, Ravar fails to take into account one important factor, Axane¿s loving husband Gyalo who cherishes his spouse. Gyalo risks his life to rescue his beloved, but his journey proves frighteningly enlightening as he begins to believe he is the true Next Messenger, a job he does not want. --- With religious intolerance geometrically on the upswing around the world including the United States, THE AWAKENED CITY is a timely cautionary tale that focuses on the impact of societies by de facto and de jure religious oppression. Readers see first hand what occurs when narrow-mindedness is the norm through the changing viewpoints of predominantly the two candidates for the Next Messenger position. The story line is action-packed but insures the key cast members are complete individuals so that the audience can understand their motives. Though better to have read the previous novel THE BURNING LAND this invigorating tale can stand alone in its fervent plea for forbearance of one another¿s beliefs. --- Harriet Klausner

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