Title: The City’s Son
Author: Tom Pollock
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Skyscraper Throne (Book 1)
Publication Date: September 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
ISBN-10: 0738734306 (Flux)
ISBN-13: 978-0738734309 (Flux)
Reviewed by: Emmy
Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Urchin, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Urchin opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen-where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze.
But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Urchin’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Urchin raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.
Quick & Dirty: This novel puts the URBAN in fantasy, with the magic found in the oil and asphalt and metal that make London, pulling the reader in with developing characters and high stakes, even if the plot runs thin in places.
Opening Sentence: I’m hunting.
Beth Bradley is a talented tagger. Her work stains the walls of London in everything from paint to chalk—her most recent work the portrait of a certain teacher at her school. It isn’t a flattering interpretation. The caricature makes it clear Beth’s lonely world is about to get smaller, when her best friend sells her out and the school threatens to call Social Services. Her father, catatonic since the death of her mother, can’t motivate himself to help her, so Beth takes to the streets she knows like the back of her hand. Only, when she runs into an street urchin with skin like cement, she learns fast that the streets she knew so well, she didn’t know at all.
London is alive. Not just the humans, but the bricks in the walls and the scaffolds on the skyscrapers. As Pollock throws Beth and the reader into this fantastical and intensely imaginative world, London becomes a much darker place. There are dangers lurking everywhere—your very reflection in the mirror or the spiders that eat voices—brought chills to my skin the same way a horror novel does. The author doesn’t let you feel safe even when the characters are, sinking you into a treacherous world where everything familiar turns alien.
Filius, our street urchin, is actually the Son of the Streets (among other, epic titles). His mother is the Goddess Viae. She’s worshipped by this fantastical London underworld and yet mysteriously absent. Reach, the Crane King threatening the city, is growing more powerful every day. It took the Great Fire to destroy Reach last time around—and it took most of London with it. As Fil and Beth try to raise the Goddess’s army for war, they begin to find strength in each other. Reach has set his sights on Fil, making time short as they wait for their deity to strike.
I loved the intense fantasy of The City’s Son. It’s overwhelming for the first few pages, because the author assumes you’ll pick it up as you go, but eventually I just slid into the world. I spent a lot of time wondering how the bloody hell Pollock came up with some of this stuff—I will never look at phone lines the same way again—and even more shivering from the creepy suspense of it. This world has painted the color of asphalt in broad strokes, taking the reader completely out of London and into a whole new underworld. This novel is an urban fantasy with all the emphasis on the urban part. Seriously.
The writing is where I knocked off points. The story gets really confusing with it’s multiple points-of-view. Filius, our petrol-sweating demigod, is written in first person. Everyone else is written in third. The perspectives jump with no rhyme or rhythm, more than half of the time without a page break to let you know. It’s the only part (besides my terror of telephone-arachnids) where I was torn from the story. This novel definitely gets my recommendation, especially if you’ve been looking for a new kind of fantasy to dive into.
“How in Thames’—? ” The thought tailed away. It didn’t sound like her; it sounded like him.
An image struck her: rain pouring over the city, water flooding down sewers, through gutters, seeping through the earth, teasing up tiny particles of London and carrying them here.
Liquid chaos, and other more exotic ingredients.
Here, into her.
The heat of the fire forced droplets of sweat from her and she felt them clinging to her skin, insulating her from the heat. A petrol tang touched her lips.
She remembered Fil putting his hand on the streetlamp girl’s arm. The heat should have been agonising, but he’d shown no sign of pain.
She kicked towards the flames.
The Skyscraper Throne Series:
FTC Advisory: Flux provided me with a copy of The City’s Son. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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