The Drowned Cities Paolo Bacigalupi Audiobook Review

It’s hard to say for certain what I like most about Paolo Bacigalupi’s young adult books. Maybe it is the sense that Paolo Bacigalupi doesn’t write down for his audience and tackles deeper themes with a certain finesse. Or perhaps it is the world building? Or maybe I really like his complex and flawed characters the best? One thing I am positive about is that as soon as I saw The Drowned Cities on Audible, I immediately bought it, despite having the Netgalley on my kindle.

The Drowned Cities Paolo Bacigalupi Audiobook Cover

The Drowned Cities

The Drowned Cities is a companion novel to Ship Breaker.  However the only character from Ship Breaker is Tool, the half man. Mahlia and Mouse, friends and orphans inhabit the same terrifying world as Nailer. The two live in the drowned cities which is basically what the world would be like if America turned into a war zone where everyone struggles to get by. Mahlia and Mouse run away into the jungle and stumble upon Tool. Mouse is then forced to join up with the soldier boys whereas Mahlia is on the run with Tool.

Ya’ll, I would NOT want to live in the world Paolo Bacigalupi has built in both Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities. It is gritty, scary, and totally dangerous. The threat of battle and war is constant. There are child soldiers.Refugees are treated horribly. I mean, okay, I guess this is reality for some people, but personally, I lead a privileged existence and could never hack it in this world.

I really admired Mahlia, the main character. She has this tenacity to her. You see, she’s missing a hand and doesn’t really have anyone or parents to look out for her. Yet she never gives up. She never surrenders. Mahlia is also loyal and brave. I really like how instead of taking the easy path or finding an out, she does the right thing.

The audiobook of The Drowned Cities is very well done. It is produced by Brilliance Audio and narrated by Joshua Swanson. The audiobook is 9 hours and 58 minutes unabridged, but goes by really fast. Like, I listened to it when I took my dogs for a three hour walk. At this point, friends, I am committed to continuing a series in audio if it’s narrated by Swanson – he’s got great range and knows how to keep the pace exciting and intense. Straight up both Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi are worth a listen or a read.

Disclosure: Purchased the audiobook, ebook received for review.

Other reviews of The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi:

Charlotte’s Library – “Riveting, dark, powerful, and not one I’m giving to my eleven year old to read

Emily’s Reading Room – “Has a very distinct flavor to it

The Readventurer – “An immensely intense experience for me

Books by Paolo Bacigalupi:

Ship Breaker

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I haven’t read Ship Breaker yet, though I saw it was super cheap on kindle now. Sweet! I love when the audio narrator is awesome and makes the listening hours fly by. This one sounds intense! Will have to check out the audio sometime.

  2. I haven’t read these books yet, but I own both. I need to hop on these sometimes soon. You’ve got me incredibly intrigued. 🙂

  3. She’s missing a hand?? Now you definitely have my curiosity!! (My 3 year old was born without a left hand…) So now I have to go look for this!!

    -Jac @ For Love and Books

  4. So I had ZERO intention of reading this book. It barely made a blip on my radar. But once you described the world – the cruelty and the grittiness – and then Mahlia, I was basically sold. I’ve got to see how I can get my hands on some copy of it, because it just sounds way too awesome to pass by.

  5. Hmm I’ve always heard good things about Ship Breaker but never knew what it was about. Reading your review of this is making me want to read it now! I live gritty and real worlds sooo yeah…adding it to the TBR!

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