The Etched City

Author: Bishop, K.j.

The Etched city was formed from the love union between Stephen King and China Mieville. If you want a more complex fantasy novel with a good dose of the bizarre, a sprinkle of noir, and a dash of pathos, The Etched City is it. You'll find a lot of comparisons with King's The Dark Tower, as both novels feature a dark, brooding hero tromping through a wasteland of a world. But the stories, in terms of similarities, end there.Bishop is a strong storyteller with a keen knack for crafting characters that don't fit into the normal mode. You won't find those canned fantasy characters such as the spoiled princess, the dumb hero, the evil dark mage, etc. Rather, you will be presented with a cast of (sometimes despicable) characters, human warts and all.Let me emphasize that if you are looking for standard fantasy (village boy discovers secret power, gathers up companions including a beautiful princess in disguise, and sets off to fight a dark lord), you should look to other authors. But if you want an entirely different kind of fantasy, a dark, dirty, sensual fantasy where the norms are still yet undefined, where you can root for evil to win and the wretched to victory. Yes, it's that kind of novel. Don't think you can fit The Etched City into your standard fantasy. Reading this book is like going on a trip and experiencing something bizarre -- it's likely the experience may not be entirely comfortable when it's happening, but afterwards you wouldn't trade it for the world. The Etched City is not always a comfortable read, nor is it a casual read. Concentration and attention on your part is required, but if you are prepared to put in the effort of reading the novel (and it's not such an effort as you might think), there is a potent and wonderful story to lose yourself in.It's unfortunate that even as of 2015, the author has not written anything else. Not only is this a Stand Alone book, it's the ONLY book written by Bishop.

Similar Recommendations

Anything by China Mieville 

You should read works by China Mieville. Mieville writes in what's called the fantasy "New Weird" subgenre. The Etched city is influenced by Mieville's works. I would recommend starting with Perdido Street Station. This author writes strange, twisted, genre-blending fantasy. 


And for yet another writer who writes in this New Weird style, give M. John Harrison's Viriconium a go.

The Dark Tower

It's weird but reminiscent The Dark Tower by Stephen King. Some elements are similar -- horror and darkness, though King's work is a more traditional heroic tale while Parker's work is...not.


Ghormenghast. Not exactly fantasy, but with rich, evocative language, atmospheric settings, and indelicate characters, and a strange almost dreamlike landscape and world, you can't but help feel some similarities, though Parker's world is darker and more undefined.

City of Saints and Madmen

You'll also probably like Jeff Vandermeer, also another "New Weird" writer. Start with his City of Saints and Madmen.

The Year of Our War


Steph Swainston's The Year of Our War might fit your taste too.


Iron Dragon's Daughter


For an atmospheric mishmash of steampunk, fantasy, and fairies, give Michael Swanwick's Iron Dragon's Daughter a read -- I've got a feeling you'll love it if you like KJ Bishop.

And for more books with atmospheric and dreamlike settings that make for intelligent reads: 


  • Michael Moorcock's Gloriana
  •  Jack Vance's Dying Earth
  • Writings by Edgar Allen Poe
  •  Works by Lord Dunsany
  •  Vermillion Sands by J.G. Ballard 

If you want more suggestions for New Weird/Literary fantasy, take a good look at the new Best Literary Fantasy Books list.

Booklists having this book

Top 100 Fantasy Books

This list continues directly from where  the Top 25 Best Fantasy List ends, starting from #26 and ending at #100 (yes, I know the list shows #1, but 1 = 26).Frankly, there are... Read more

Best Stand Alone Fantasy Books

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