A stand-alone fantasy book set in a post-apocalyptic world.

Publication year: 1996
Format: Audio
Running time: 16 hours 23 minutes
Narrator: Kyle McCarley

Most of the world is a desert called the Waste. The biggest remaining city is Charisat: a great place if you’re rich and local but not so good if you’re poor, a foreigner, or non-human. Khat is all three: he a krisman, a species which the Ancients created to survive the desert. However, many humans think that the krismen don’t have souls and so they shun the krismen. But not all humans do that. Khat’s business partner in their relic hunting business is a human Sagai. He’s also a foreigner so they banded together for mutual survival but they’re now loyal friends.

A wealthy man hires Khat to find a Remnant, a place left behind by the Ancients when they vanished. Khat is paranoid but he, Sagai, and Sagai’s family need to eat, so Khat takes the job. Of course, it turned to be quite different than he expected.

The other POV character is Elen, a young female Warder, a very high-ranking police officer of sorts. The Warders have magical powers and they’re recruited from the highest level patricians, so they don’t have many dealings among any lower-class people. Elen has quite a few preconceptions about them. It’s a shock to her to realize that her ideas aren’t always true. But she’s also quick to learn. She’s the only female Warder and so she sometimes attracts unwanted attention. She’s a trained fighter, too.

Khat has a dark past that haunts him. It’s very hard for him to trust anyone. In fact, the only people he trusts are Sagai, his family, and his widowed landlady and her kids. Khat defends them fiercely. He distrusts all high-class people and expects nothing but prejudice from humans and is rarely disappointed. But he’s also very good at his job, which a relic hunter. In this world, ancient relics are one of the biggest merchandise. Khat is very good at identifying if items are actual relics or fakes and he knows whom to sell them. He’s also very good at negotiation.

The city is a dystopia. Foreigners and non-citizens are subjected to harsh and draconic rules. On the other hand, scholars are respected. This is a fascinating city and world, and Welles takes her time to introduce them.

I mostly enjoyed the book. Relic hunting is a fascinating business. I also enjoyed the characters. Even though both Elen and Khat started as stereotypical people, they didn’t stay that way. I also really enjoyed Sagai and his family and the landlady’s family. Even though Khat isn’t related to them, they’re very much a tight family unit.

The plot takes a while to get going but it was worth it, for me at least.