THE CITY’S SON (Skyscraper Throne #1)
by Tom Pollock
PUBLISHER: Jo Fletcher Books
RELEASE DATE: 2nd August 2012
FORMAT: Hardcover, 422 pages
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
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. (Goodreads)
THE CITY’S SON by Tom Pollock is a fast-paced urban fantasy, set in the modern streets of London, revealing the city’s secret war that lurks within its streets.
The book begins with a chapter that is a bit confusing, as it is told from the first person account of a character we haven’t been introduced to and details a hunt for a creature we know nothing about. This wasn’t the best start to a book I’ve ever read, and I could easily have made the decision to put the book straight down.
However, I persevered with the reading, in which we are introduced to Beth Bradley, a teenager who roams the streets at night graffitiing London with her innermost thoughts. Her best friend is Pen Khan (short for Parva), who accompanies Beth on her nighttime exploits, with our first example being a graffiti piece of their teacher on the school playground.
Of course, they are caught for this and Beth is expelled, being forced to deliver the news to her dad, who is catatonic and sits in a dream-like state lamenting the death of his wife some years earlier. Her father gives little inclination that he has understood this news, with Beth escaping the confines of her melancholy home to find solace on the streets. She then finds herself in the midst of a fight between two railwraiths, train-like beings that gain energy from the railway tracks.
She is saved by Filius Viae, the son of legendary street goddess Mater Viae, and prince of the streets. He lets her see his view of London, where other creatures exist, such as Gutterglass, a being formed out of rubbish; creatures that are like walking light bulbs; statues that can move; and possessed barbed wire. Sound strange? You’d be right. There seemed to be a whole host of creatures throughout this book, and at times it felt like too much, like the author was trying to cram everything in and expecting the reader to be swept along with it.
Together Filius and Beth are trying to recruit an army to take on ‘Reach’, an entity we don’t know much about until the ending, and even then I’m not sure what to think about it. It is the being responsible for the presence of skyscrapers in London, the supposed ‘King of Cranes’, which appears to be an embodiment of capitalism to some degree, and the long-term enemy of Filius’ mother.
Beth was an interesting main character, as her background is tragic, with her mother dead and father stuck in his grief. She is strong and fiercely independent, going her own way all the time, often going against Filius’ advice. However, the one thing I didn’t like, both about Beth and the other human characters in the novel, is that she easily accepts the world she is thrown into, and there is little resistance or unwillingness to believe. I understand this is a fantasy novel, but I would still expect a certain degree of bewilderment instead of total yielding.
Filius was similar to Beth in the amount of emotional stress he was under, as he is pressured to lead an army in the name of a mother he doesn’t remember, and to be as great as she once was. Of course, he falls for Beth, but what I didn’t like was that it was almost instantaneous, with very little build-up. There is little affection or attraction between the two, they are just suddenly together, with an almost sex scene, which I think places the book at the older end of the YA spectrum.
With the YA reader in mind, I understand that this book is set on the London streets but both Beth and Filius use phrases such as ‘bloody’ and ‘bleedin’’ far too much in their speech, with the c-word almost being used on several occasions (i.e. we get ‘cu-’ and ‘cun-’ being cut off mid-word). As a YA novel I understand the presence of some swear words, but felt that this hinted c-word was going a bit too far for the YA market.
Another thing that I was disappointed with was the focus on the other characters in the book. I liked the multiple perspectives that allowed Pen and Beth’s dad be focused on, but I felt that there wasn’t enough focus on them, as I often found myself looking forward to their segments more than Beth’s and Filius’. Pen’s character was a little too underdeveloped, as it is strongly suggested that one of the teachers is abusing her, but that story is never delved into, and I have a feeling it is being saved for a future book.
After reading this book I could take it or leave it, as it was starting to drag in places, and after the shocking twist of an ending, it could just as easily be a standalone novel instead of a series. I’m not sure how the series will develop, as there a few plotlines left open for the sequel, but there was no major cliffhanger to draw me in.
This book is an action-packed urban fantasy, but despite all the action and supernatural creatures it just felt a bit like overkill on the action scenes. I liked the heroine, but didn’t like how accepting all the characters seemed to be of the hidden world of London’s streets. The use of language in the book also made me feel like this book is targeted at the older scale of the YA market, and I’m sorry to say that this book didn’t pull me in as much as I’d hoped.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
1. The City’s Son
2. The Glass Republic
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