Review: The City’s Son by Tom Pollock
Author: Tom Pollock
Title: The City’s Son
Release: September 8th 2012
Series: Skyscraper Throne Trilogy – Book 1
Source: Book Expo America
Purchase: | Book Depository
Expelled from school, betrayed by her best friend and virtually ignored by her dad, who’s never recovered from the death of her mum, Beth Bradley retreats to the sanctuary of the streets, looking for a new home. What she finds is Filius Viae, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London, who opens her eyes to the place she’s never truly seen.
But the hidden London is on the brink of destruction. Reach, the King of the Cranes, is a malign god of demolition, and he wants Filius dead. In the absence of the Lady of the Streets, Filius’ goddess mother, Beth rouses Filius to raise an alleyway army, to reclaim London’s skyscraper throne for the mother he’s never known. Beth has almost forgotten her old life – until her best friend and her father come searching for her, and she must choose between the streets and the life she left behind.
This year I didn’t get the chance to go to Book Expo America but after hearing all about my experiences last year, my mom decided she wanted to check it out for herself. She decided to be the Dolls’ emissary and well, she completely exceeded expectations – with over 120 books shlepped home and great choices they were too.
Among the many titles was The City’s Son by Thomas Pollock – a young adult title that immediately drew my attention because it sounded so different from anything I’ve seen before – with gods of urban decay and voice stealing spiders… I had to read it.
It was an experience I still can’t get over.
In The City’s Son we meet Beth, a graffiti artist and 16-year old living in London who feels rather disconnected from the world around her – except when it comes to her best friend Pen, but when the two get in trouble and Pen betrays her trust, and with her father lost in a never-ending cycle of grief for her mother – Beth knows she has no one to turn to… so she takes to London’s streets.
When she ends up on a train that literally seems to have a life of its own – it is no ordinary train, it’s a railwraith, a train creature that feeds off the energy of the tracks – she is saved by Fil (Filius Viae) AKA Urchin AKA son of the Goddess of the Streets Mater Viae.
Fil has London’s streets in his blood, when his mother disappeared he was raised by Gutterglass – a creature that can take both male and female form – form in a very loose sense as Gutterglass’s form is made up of whatever trash happens to be laying around at the time. No one knows where Fil’s mother is or when she will return, she was last seen when she vanquished Reach – the King of the Cranes.
Now Reach is back, with his cranes slowly taking control – towering over London’s streets. With Mater Viae no where in sight, Fil will have to take on Reach alone. So our story really begins with Beth discovering the strange world Fil inhabits and joining up with Fil to gather an army to battle against Reach and his cranes.
This book is no easy read that you can breeze through – it is complex and consuming and difficult and incredible.
Pollock doesn’t introduce you to his universe or characters, he pushes you right in to their world and expects you to plow ahead. This did mean that it took me a little bit longer to get into the story – but once I was in I was a goner. Moreover, the fact that there is no gentle introduction means that your imagination goes into overdrive. When I wasn’t reading this book (stupid real life!) I was trying to imagine what the railwraiths, the pylon spiders (who live on voices they absorb through telephone lines), mirrorstocrats, pavement priests and many other characters and creatures look like.
While Fil and Beth seek out allies and try to avoid the well, long reaching arm of Reach. Beth’s friend Pen (Parva) is dealing with the aftermath of her betrayal – and it may end up putting her right across from Beth when battle lines are drawn.
The City’s Son just has so much going on yet I didn’t feel that the story was rushed or that Pollock was trying to cram as much information as possible into each page. He does change POVs often but while it started out as confusing, I got used to it very quickly and it allowed me to really get a fuller picture as the story unfolded.
Pollock’s supporting cast is sublime with each character fleshed-out and really brought to life on every page. In fact, sometimes it felt like I knew more about them than Beth and Fil. Pen’s role in this book is heart-wrenching and I don’t want to spoil, but Pollock made her experiences so very realistic it was quite frightening at times just how much it felt like I was going through them together with Pen.
Now, my one problem with this book is the fact that it is listed as young adult (for children 12 and over) I do realize that teens (and tweens!) today see and experience much more than I did at that age (feeling so old at 32…) but sometimes I felt this was just a bit much for a 12 year old to handle. I think this book might suit the older end of the teen spectrum. (Added: You can read what Tom had to say about this in the interview he gave to PBD Here)
I think the best way for me to explain is to say: For me this book was like Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series – deep, extraordinary and all sorts of wonderful but with a dark edge that some people may not find suitable for the younger crowd.
The City’s Son is an action packed book with incredible character and world building and a beautifully written story that really stays with you long after you turn the last page. Yes, this book is one of those that doesn’t let go when the book is back on the shelf; it is thought provoking and really, quite different from anything I have read.
This is the first in the Skyscraper Throne Trilogy, so expect certain storylines to remain wide open – but it does have its own conclusion (no scary cliffhanger Suz!)
A seriously crazily good series opener, I am waiting with baited breath to see what Pollock thinks of next.