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Friday, November 11, 2011

"City of the Snakes" by Darren Shan (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order the book HERE
Read an excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s review of Procession Of The Dead
Read FBC’s Review of Hell’s Horizon

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Darren O'Shaughnessy is the much acclaimed author of the "Saga of Darren Shan" and "The Demonata" series. He has previously taken various pen names such as D.B. Shan and Darren Shan which he now uses to differentiate between his adult and YA books. He was born in London but moved to Ireland during his childhood. He currently spends his time between living in the Irish countryside as well as in London. The first book in the "Saga of Darren Shan" was made into a film called "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" and was released a couple years ago.
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: For ten years Capac Raimi has ruled the City. Created by the first Cardinal to continue his legacy, Capac cannot be killed.

Then Capac disappears. His trusted lieutenant, Ford Tasso, suspects the mysterious villacs, ancient and powerful Incan priests. To Ford, only one man has the cunning to outwit such adversaries-Al Jeery, who has taken the guise of his father, the terrifying assassin Paucar Wami.

Al has no love for Capac and no wish to tangle with the villacs. Until Ford promises him the one thing he truly craves-retribution against the man who killed those he loved most and destroyed his life. Lured into the twisted, nightmarish world of the Incan priests, Al will learn more about the City than he ever imagined, and be offered more power than he ever desired.

But in the City, everything comes at a cost...

FORMAT/INFO: The hardcover edition of City of the Snakes is 307 pages long divided into four titled parts and an epilogue section. Each section is further divided into titled and numbered chapters for a total of twenty-seven chapters. The Narration is via first person and features Al Jeery for the major part and Capac Raimi for the remaining chapters, the individual narrators of the previous two books. This is the third book in the City trilogy and is set ten years after the events of the first two books. This book will have to be read after the first two to make sense of the over arcing plot and characters and only then can the entire story be wholly appreciated.

June 2, 2011 marked the Hardback publication of City of the Snakes via Grand Central Publishing.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I was awaiting “City of the Snakes” since the moment I finished “Hell’s Horizon”. I knew that the third book would be taking a time leap and would be featuring characters from both the previous books. After liking the weird but excellent start to the series, I was curious how the author planned to end the series and how would Capac and Jeery interact with each other and what would this mean for the City.

The story opens up ten years after the events of Procession of the Dead and we find that Capac has indeed risen to the top however he’s not been completely able to control his environment. He wonders whether he did the right thing in the climax of Procession of the Dead as things haven’t gone smoothly as per the Cardinal’s predictions. His henchmen have been constantly betraying him and somehow he has started seeing ghosts of past personae. Convinced he’s slowly losing his mind, he turns to Ford Tasso to help him however before he can be of any service, Capac is reunited with a particular person from his past. His besotted entanglement however leads him down a path from where return is nigh impossible. Al Jeery is then contacted by Ford Tasso to locate and retrieve Capac, that however is easier said than done as the usual suspects are the city’s worst kept secret, its Incan priests. As Al slowly makes his way through the twisted lanes of the City, he starts realizing that perhaps Capac was seeing something concrete after all. And the worst nightmare the City has ever faced, the deadly psychopathic assassin Paucar Wami, has returned and perhaps he will want to find out what Al has been up to for the past ten years.

This book is the last book in the trilogy and therefore it does bring into play all the characters which have been introduced so far. This is a good move on the author’s part as it further raises the scales. There is a theme of redemption which plays out between the pages and all characters have to face it. The plot of the book is coalesced a bit from the first two as in the first we had a crusade of one person to rise to the top and in the second there is the search for the missing person. This book manages to combine both these elements and gives the reader something new and familiar at the same time. The plot manages to recreate the intensity of the previous books while giving the characters a push in a newer direction. Both the POV characters are charismatic ones and while Capac does get a smaller role of sorts, he does manage to convey his growth as a character and a crime lord. The real scene stealer is Al Jeery who has spent the last ten years trying to live up a legend so he can find the man who has led him to become the very thing he despises. Al’s growth is very vividly described and the events of this book further test his mettle.

The prose does not disappoint in this one after the excellent turns in the previous books as the author vividly shows the city, its Incan priests and the strange world wherein they inhabit. The book has a strong climax and manages to tie up all the threads which have been introduced so far. I felt this was rather excellent because as a reader I got complete closure from the story. The author also has been brutal with all of his characters as many meet their ends and those who are left alive are worse for wear. Lastly I think the way the author ends the story is rather a mystical one, one can draw inferences from it about what might have happened and all possibilities stand true. The bittersweet nature of the ending does justice to this dark tale and this ending is one which cannot be predicted as well.

Drawbacks were few but present, namely that Capac gets a reduced role. While from a plot point-of-view it is justified, the reader would have definitely benefitted from seeing more of his grey nature. The ending to the story while action-packed ends with a literal bang and perhaps some readers might have liked to read a few more details about it. The book does do its best to keep the tension and intrigue throughout its pages however the weirdness sometimes does overwhelm it.

CONCLUSION: A powerful ending to a dark saga, the characters of the City are not ones which the reader will easily forget. City of the Snakes is a good book to end out a trilogy and it remains to be seen what readers down the line will make of it when they read all the three books together. I for one, enjoyed this gritty, weird urban fantasy story about power, corruption and the redemption of one’s soul. A must read for all readers of the previous books and for those who like their stories dark & with a slice of Noir.


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