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Friday, August 3, 2012

The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (Reviewed by Sabine Gueneret)

Order “The City’s SonHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE
Watch a Video Interview with Tom Pollock HERE

INTRODUCTION: Earlier this year, I had a chance to read The City’s Son by Tom Pollock as I was working as a literary scout for Quercus, and this book is definitely one of the highlights of Jo Fletcher’s 2012 catalog. As for Tom Pollock, he is for me one of the year’s debut authors worth discovering…

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Tom Pollock is a graduate of the Sussex University Creative Writing Programme, and a member of the London-based writers' group The T-Party. He has lived everywhere from Scotland to Sumatra, but the peculiar magic of London has always drawn him back. The City’s Son is his first novel.

FORMAT/INFO: The City’s Son is 422 pages long and is the first volume of The Skyscraper Throne YA series. August 2, 2012 marks the UK Hardcover publication of The City’s Son via Jo Fletcher Books. The US version (see below) will be published on September 8, 2012 via Flux.

OVERVIEW: Hidden under the surface of everyday London is a city of monsters and miracles, where wild train spirits stampede over the tracks and glass-skinned dancers with glowing veins light the streets.

When a devastating betrayal drives her from her home, graffiti artist Beth Bradley stumbles into the secret city, where she finds Filius Viae, London's ragged crown prince, just when he needs someone most. An ancient enemy has returned to the darkness under St Paul's Cathedral, bent on reigniting a centuries-old war, and Beth and Fil find themselves in a desperate race through a bizarre urban wonderland, searching for a way to save the city they both love.

The City's Son is the first book of The Skyscraper Throne trilogy: a story about family, friends and monsters, and how you can't always tell which is which…

ANALYSIS: The City’s Son is a dark, compelling urban fantasy highlighted by very rich prose—especially for a YA novel—and mythology that is sophisticated and well thought through. For instance, the metaphorical fight against the expansion of capitalism without a conscience is subtle enough not to be sanctimonious, yet is coherent and gives the book a wide impact—I personally like fantasy literature that possesses a strong symbolic meaning, such as the books by J.R.R. Tolkien or China Mieville, and from that perspective I was delighted by The City’s Son.

Of the story, The City’s Son reminded me of Un Lun Dun by China Mieville—an ordinary girl finding herself entangled with a not so ordinary boy, in a parallel urban world made out of rubbish, fighting against the effects of capitalism, etc.—yet no simple answers are provided. The plot is cleverly set up and carefully constructed, with an exciting twist in the ending that made this reader very keen to see volume two of the trilogy. Pollock’s world also works well, with a number of creative, well thought out fantasy characters, such as Glas, a spirit who can reassemble his body from any available rubbish.

Characterization is good in general. The male protagonist, Filius Viae, is cheeky yet touching, noble but not too self-sufficient, and overall is a really good hero aided by a first-person narrative that conveys the book’s reflection on death and sacrifice. I found Beth Bradley slightly annoying at first, even though she evolves well enough and is credible in her role—it takes a strong-headed character to survive through this kind of an adventure. Unfortunately, the relationship between Flilius & Beth is clumsy—what is I presume an attempt to represent the turmoil of first teenage love simply does not work, as it happens too fast and seems somehow irrelevant and predictable at the same time!

CONCLUSION: As a (fairly) new Londoner myself, I must say that I have been stricken by the brilliant, original, and poetic vision of London captured in The City’s Son by Tom Pollock. As every good urban fantasy should, this book transforms London into a magical experience, where you will find yourselves looking out for Whiteys and Railwraiths and so on… I won’t reveal more, but I strongly recommend you go run to your favourite bookshop and pick up a copy of The City’s Son


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