The City’s Son by Tom Pollock

March 6, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★★★

The City’s Son by Tom PollockThe City's Son (The Skyscraper Throne #1) by Tom Pollock
Published: August 2nd 2012 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: Paperback, 454 pages
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

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 is the first of a series, an urban fable about friends, family and monsters, and how you can't always tell which is which.

I loved The City’s Son so much, I worried that I won’t have the words to describe how I feel. It turns out that I have a lot of words for how amazing this book is.

You see, this city is built on a lot of things: brick and stone and river clay, but under that, under everything, the city is built on bargains. Those’re the true foundations of the city, those intricate contracts. Deals are sacred here.

Firstly, we have to talk about Pollock’s London, because in many ways, this book is an ode to urban London, its grimy streets, oil slicked roads and bright lights. The city is alive, a character in its own right. It thrums with the energy of spirits made of light who dance in the streets and shelter in street-lamps, the scuttle of mechanical spiders who subsist on stolen voices, and the grating of stone statues that come alive and walk through cemeteries. This is a London where gods and goddesses exist in plain sight but wage an unseen war. Vivid, gritty, realistic, and amazing all at once, Tom Pollock’s London will take your breath away.

I love the writing style of this book: it grabbed me from the first page and would. not. let. go. You try going to work when all you can think about are Beth, Fil, Glas, and their war against Reach! Pollock drops you into his hidden London with nary a warning, and I can see that this may frustrate some readers (to the point that many give up, according to Goodreads!). But I think patience will reward readers manyfold. I didn’t think it was that difficult to follow. Yes, everything isn’t handed to you on a silver platter in the first three pages, but I’ve always hated that kind of story-telling, so I love and appreciate how the gorgeous world-building and amazing plot unfurl dramatically as the story goes on.

This is YA, but it’s (in my opinion) the very best of YA. No simpering, vapid ladies here, no stalker bad boys, not a love triangle in sight. This is a magical, sophisticated and intelligent novel that features teenagers. It’s brilliant. I have so much love for The City’s Son!

The book is told in dual point of view. The first of these is Beth: a teen graffiti artist extraordinaire whose father has basically stopped living after the death of his wife. Beth has fended for herself for a long time, but after she’s betrayed by her best friend and expelled from school, she takes to London’s streets, where she meets the city’s son, the Urchin Prince, Filius Viae. He was abandoned by his mother and is pursued by Reach’s soldiers in a never-ending war. Beth’s chapters are told in limited third person while Fil’s are in first person, which threw me for a while, but it started to make sense when I realised that Beth is, and may always be, an outsider to Fil’s world. I love them both since they are complete and dimensional characters, with flaws and dreams, and completely realistic.

I think Beth makes the book. She’s smart and incredibly loyal. She is at times intrigued, fascinated, and disgusted at what she sees in Fil’s London. I love her, and I respect her because of the difficult choices she made and how she grew up throughout the book. While I instantly liked Beth, Fil took a little getting used to because he is so unfamiliar. He’s not a prince in the traditional sense – he sleeps on the streets, he’s on the run from Reach’s forces, and he’s still basically a kid. I was pleasantly surprised by the romance between the two, because I wasn’t looking for it and it seemed to grow in the background. They first built their unshakeable friendship and mutual respect, and then came to think of each other as something else.

Of all the other characters in the book, it is Parva that I enjoyed reading about the most. She’s Beth’s best-friend, and while she’s by no means any less brave or awesome as her friend, Parva is initially eclipsed by Beth’s vivacity. It doesn’t stop her from making a series of decisions that embroil her in the brutal war between Mater Viae and Reach to protect Beth. I was a little disappointed because I wanted more of Parva in the book, but I understand that the sequel puts her on the centre-stage, which will be awesome.

If you like urban fantasy, you need to read The City’s Son. It redefines what it means to write in the genre. I’ve read this book as part of a series re-read held by Jo Fletcher Books, in anticipation of the publication of the third book, Our Lady of the Streets, and I’m looking forward to reading book 2, The Glass Republic, soon.

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