Most dystopias are formed around once-healthy societies that have to cope with disaster. The dystopian elements of Recoletta, the city in which The Buried Life is set, revolve around a society that has long since overcome its original challenges but has developed unhealthily as a result of them. It's a broken bone that healed without setting properly.
Recoletta was founded in the wake of a global catastrophe that sent the survivors into large underground shelters. Over time, those shelters grew into sprawling cities, and long past the time when living underground was necessary, it remained fashionable as well as a matter of custom.
As a result, people in Recoletta tend to fear the wrong things. They fear the unknown horrors of past civilizations more than the corruption and conspiracies dominating their present society. And, not surprisingly, the people in power—those who benefit from corruption and propagate conspiracies—exploit those fears.
However, Recoletta hits a crisis point when some of those conspirators, the men and women who run the city, find themselves the targets of another plot. Inspector Liesl Malone is drawn into the fray by the murders of some of the city’s most powerful men and women. Her investigation leads her to secrets that have been protected for hundreds of years.
What she learns changes Recoletta. Those changes, and the ripple effect they create, are at the heart of Cities and Thrones, the sequel.
Cities and Thrones picks up shortly after events at the end of The Buried Life. The story is about adapting to a city rendered unrecognizable by change as well as to new roles and positions. Recoletta is undergoing a transformation, and many of the characters must either flee to new cities or dig their heels in. Either way, everyone must cope with the changes occurring around them.