A warrior trapped by the past.
A priest hunted by hidden enemies.
A city haunted by old gods’ magic.
Battle-scarred and cynical, Conyr survives as a guard in Eretria’s foulest prison for one reason. He watches his back. When he’s blackmailed into breaking Dru out of prison, staying safe becomes impossible.
A young priest from an enemy city, Dru has come to Eretria on a mission. But he has a big problem. He can’t remember what his mission is. And the ruling elite of both cities intend to discover it by any means necessary.
Together, Conyr and Dru must navigate a maze of power-hungry rivals, desert assassins, and magical attacks if they wish to live.
Deep beneath the city itself long-dead gods kindle to life—and they are angry. For the young priest’s lost memory holds more than the key to his past, but also the fates of two cities.
“… A WELL-WRITTEN BOOK …”
… a well-written book that admirably manages to conclude all events satisfactorily within 260 pages, which is a great relief at a time when it seems authors of fantasy adventures are unable or unwilling to complete their stories in less than fully-fledged trilogies. The author clearly has a good sense of place, although one that is not overwhelming … (read more) – John Walsh, Mahidol University
“… NECROPOLIS* IS ONE OF THE BEST …”
The plot grabs the reader from the first paragraph and one doesn’t want to put the book down until the last page has been turned. I’ve been reading and reviewing a lot of Fantasy novels over the past few years, and Necropolis is one of the best, most tightly-woven, and interesting storylines that I’ve had the pleasure of reading … (read more) – Dan L. Hollifield, Aphelion Webzine
“… RIVETING, AND NOT EASILY PREDICTABLE ….”
“… Uhl weaves together elements of historical language and culture with the products of her own imagination to create a rich, and eerily familiar, world …The tale itself is riveting, and not easily predictable. The characters are given depth and motivation, their interactions are fascinating and their fates compelling. The fantastical story is almost a backdrop to a tale of loyalty, love, and friendship… (read more) – BookLore
“… DELIGHTFULLY DIFFERENT …”
“NECROPOLIS, a first novel, is a delightfully different fantasy adventure set in an invented world that reflects the author’s scholarly interest in ancient history … For a yarn told with this much wit, invention, suspense and economy, a sequel would be welcome—if only to spend more time with the lovable Dru, Conyr, Jesra, Val, Echo and even the ambiguous Gilas in their fascinating, vibrant world.” (read more) – Rambles:- a cultural arts review magazine
“… INTELLIGENTLY WRITTEN, EXCITING TO READ, AND MEMORY-HAUNTING FANTASY …”
“…A debut novel from a small, independent press, NECROPOLIS raises the bar, adds new and exciting parameters to intelligently written, exciting to read, and memory-haunting fantasy. A student of ancient history, Ms. Uhl incorporates her knowledge into her tale and produces a seamless whole. I loved the book, the characters, and the plot… (read more) – Crescent Blues e-Magazine
“XINA MARIE UHL PAINTS A NEW WORLD …”
“… Xina Marie Uhl paints a new world with bold strokes, depicting competing and cooperating cultures, the nomads, farmers, and city dwellers, rich and poor, magicians and ordinary folks, with detailed accuracy. She shows people as they really are, mixtures of good and bad, with divided loyalties and fears and motivations, weaknesses, and the hidden heroism and courage that find a home in those who dare to love others and justice, even in the face of death … (read more) – Elizabeth W. Bennefeld
*City of the Dead previously published as Necropolis
Year 309, Eretrian Calender
It was an evil day.
Outside Eretria’s walls, the farmers living on the sun-baked plains kept their livestock carefully separated; breeding on this day would only result in stillbirths or deformities. Inside the walls, priests lit incense and sent prayers of protection to the gods along with the sweet-smelling smoke. The astrologers, adamant about the heavenly portents, recommended that the faithful remain in their homes not only at night, but during the daytime as well.
Conyr Elarrin had no sooner started his rounds, that afternoon, when he found himself wishing he’d done just that. Falas, the head guard, ordered him to stand watch in the Pit, the lowest level of the prison. Conyr normally patrolled the first and second levels, which housed a slightly better lot: prisoners who had committed crimes against the city-state or whose means had purchased them less crowded conditions. There was only one reason he would be ordered to the Pit. Someone had been brought in for torture. His stomach tightened in dread. Kar, not today, he prayed silently. But Kar wasn’t listening or–more likely–didn’t care.
He descended the stairs to the Pit, a large room dug from the hard desert earth and lined with iron bars to create two areas: one huge square cell where the masses mingled and a smaller square in the center for the guards and those unfortunate enough to be tortured. Falas was there, a look of feverish excitement on his round, sweating face.
Shortly, two of Conyr’s fellow guards arrived dragging a young man with a bloodied face and torn tunic. They looped a long, rough rope around his wrists, then tossed the end through a hook on the ceiling and pulled it until the young man’s sandals dangled just above the stone floor. Blood dripped from his chafed wrists. The young man looked down at the red spots, then up, again. He had dark hair that curled slightly from the dampness of sweat and a face that, though understandably pale, appealed to the eyes because of its symmetry and openness. His expression riveted Conyr: It spoke of pride, strength, determination, and complete knowledge of what was impending. Conyr could tell that the young man knew he would not make it. Somehow, in some way he could not explain, the young man’s courage touched him in a place deep inside that he thought had been seared closed by the prison’s ever-present misery.
Prisoners with matted beards and filth-encrusted robes surged against the bars in excitement. Conyr jabbed them back with his cudgel. Voices rose as the more eager onlookers wagered on the young man’s strength. They sickened Conyr, all the more so because some of them had been victims of the same type of treatment, though they had the dubious honor of surviving.
A burst of hot air from the surrounding desert struck the outside of the building, sifting dust through the tiny ventilation windows near the ceiling. The accompanying puff of breeze stirred the odors–the sweat and feces and unwashed bodies–into a nauseating mixture that permeated the very walls and gave the place an old feel. It wasn’t, though. The prison had been built barely twenty-five years ago, when the old council decided that Eretrian citizens convicted of offenses such as stealing, raping and defaulting on debts should no longer be enslaved, just imprisoned for a set term. Enslavement was reserved for foreigners.
Falas pulled out his cudgel and slapped it against his bare palm. A cry of approval went up. So, that was how they would do it this time–beat the prisoner to death. Conyr’s eyes snapped back to the young man’s face, saw him close his eyes and move his lips in some silent supplication.
It hit Conyr, then, with strange and clear resonance, like the voice of a god. This man was innocent of whatever he had been charged with. He couldn’t explain his certainty, except that some errant intuition urged him to accept it. The realization unnerved him. Conyr turned his back on the spectacle, his gaze roaming the crowd for troublemakers. The prisoners shouldn’t have been allowed to witness such an event, but Falas liked an audience. His perversions had been accepted–even embraced–by the other guards, but he had never pressured Conyr to join him like he did the others. Conyr was different. Perhaps it was his height or frequent scowls or the battle scars which crisscrossed into haphazard patterns on his knee and arm, reminders of his years in the Cyran campaign. The others envied him for participating in that war. Fools. If they only knew what it had done to him, the dreams he suffered, the memories which would not leave his mind.
Falas laughed once, wildly, and swung his cudgel with so much force that the crunching of bone could be heard over his grunt of effort. The young man gave a strangled cry. Conyr turned back to watch the beating.
The prisoner’s tunic, torn diagonally across his chest, showed his injuries clearly. Already his torso dripped with sweat. He panted in terror. Conyr’s stomach lurched, and he cursed at himself. The first few times he’d witnessed this kind of thing he had been repulsed, so much so that he could hardly hold down his dinner, but soon he learned to pretend that the victims were not human, and disgust no longer overwhelmed him. But not this time.
As though Falas’ first blow had freed them from their tethers, the two other guards descended on the young man like starving jackals, adding their cruel blows. Kar in heaven . . . Conyr could not watch as the young man’s body bucked with the blows, dripping blood. Conyr focused his gaze on a point past the execution–no, the murder. That was when Gilas caught his eye.
Conyr should have looked away immediately, but something in Gilas’s cold, dark eyes held his attention. Gilas was a rogue ex-councilman who had somehow managed to offend Zelos Denay, a distinguished member of the Council of One Hundred, and thus ended up a prisoner on the second level. He should have been in his cell now. Conyr didn’t know how he got out, he only knew it wasn’t the first time. Gilas was the most powerful man in this filthy place, more powerful than the guards or the other prisoners, even the Captain himself, but he exerted his power in such quiet and shrewd ways that few were aware of his interference. Conyr was one of these.
With a slow, deliberate motion, Gilas stretched his hand out, palm up, reminding Conyr of his promise. Conyr cursed, unbelieving, shaking his head. Gilas’s eyes narrowed and he inclined his head toward the prisoner, mouthing the word, “Now!”