Jo Fletcher Books, h/b £12.99
Reviewed by Glen Mehn
Take a slice out of London, and you’ll find something new. Layers. History. Magic. Wonder.
Tom Pollock has taken a particularly inventive slice and brought it to life.
This book. This book.
Readers of this blog will of course recognise within themselves a desire to turn round a corner and hear the call. Find the strange. Go down a sewer pipe. Climb that ladder into the sky.
This book will make you want to do that again. It’ll have you peeking round corners, knowing that you have a place in the eternal fight between good & evil. It might have you looking at streetlamps and telephone wires in a different way – not to mention going down rail sidings. Please. Don’t go down onto the tracks. They’re electrified. The gateway is somewhere else.
The book starts off with Filius Viae, the ragged crown prince of London with skin made of concrete and blood made of petrol, hunting. All action, drawing you in to this interesting character.
Next stop: Beth Bradley – a superhero name if we’ve ever heard one – who is a young graffiti artist determined to get herself into trouble – and excluded from school. Beth is in a rail tunnel painting, when she steps onto a train, and into a parallel London. She and Filius save each other’s lives and she joins him in his quest to not run away, and perhaps even save the city from Reach, the Crane King.
The book is labelled as a YA book, but it neither panders to its potential readers nor shies away from reality – both the real world and the fantasy elements have hard, difficult, dark elements, in them. People lose things that they value in bargains, and actions have consequences. Heroes and villains aren’t always clear-cut, and Beth and Filius have to make hard choices. There’s meat in this book, and a strong sense of craft at the sentence level, and enough work to draw you in and keep you going well.
This is the first book in the Skyscraper Throne trilogy and it, for one, does not suffer from the dreaded “first book” syndrome – or if it does, the rest will be even better. Which I am very much looking forward to seeing.
The City’s Son is not without its flaws: it seems like too many of the characters accept the unexpected (statues talking to them, meeting a hot boy with skin of concrete fighting a ghost train) rather easily. This is fairly typical for YA books, though, and is in service of the action but all in all, the action, the dialogue, the sense of being rings true throughout – including, in particular, in the love scenes.
If urban fantasy is your thing, you want to read this book. Even if not, you probably want to read this book.
Then go climbing and looking for the door, the person, who will show you the way into Pollock’s London. Just watch out when climbing scaffolding.