The City’s Son, by Tom Pollock [The Skyscraper Throne #1]

  • TITLE: The City’s Son
  • AUTHOR: Tom Pollock
  • PUBLISHER: Jo Fletcher Books
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 2nd August 2012 (UK)

The City’s Son, an urban fantasy début by Tom Pollock, is a book that has me umming and ahhing and chewing my bottom lip.

I’m still not entirely sure what I thought of this book, but I am sure that it was not what I expected. Somewhere between the synopsis and the story, something was lost, swept away in the murky, magical ether between, and I’m left unsure how to explain my feelings about it.

There aren’t many books that have left me scratching my head, trying to figure out whether I’m coming or going with it. Benedict Jacka’s Cursed, left me disappointed; Mark Charan Newton’s The Broken Isles left me underwhelmed. The City’s Son has left me… I don’t know.

I liked that the book felt very YA. I’ve seen it billed as YA in one place and elsewhere classified as standard adult fantasy—it’s one of those. I’m going to call it YA. It handled like an enchanted fairy-tale that young adults would really soak up, and that part of the story resonated with me. However the setting didn’t stick. London came to life in a gritty, surreal fashion that didn’t really have an effect on me, other than “huh”.

The book tells the story of the streets of London, and the people who populate it between the cracks of what normal people can see or accept. Beth Bradley is a graffiti artist, aged sixteen, who feels utterly lost and seeks to find herself in the city she tags. Filius Viae is the son of a Goddess who lives, breathes and exists in London’s streets.

There’s a bold streak of metaphor to the book, which is fine, since it’s tackled in such a way that although it’s an obvious metaphor, it’s also honest-to-god literal in its handling and approach: the city is dying, slowly being destroyed by the Crane God, Reach, who seeks to build and rebuild and build again, all whilst sapping the city of its life. I’ll admit though, I did have to approach it with a little salt ready to hand, because even though the metaphor works, it feels a little heavy and belaboured after a point. It just didn’t work as well as I wanted it to.

This is generally my viewpoint on the entire book.

Something was missing, for me. Speaking as a whole, it’s not a book I enjoyed and I didn’t enjoy the experience of reading it. I enjoyed parts. I did not enjoy the book. I enjoyed the characters and the intent of the story, but I did not enjoy the execution. I realised, after trudging through for over half of the book, I couldn’t identify or find any way to enjoy the way in which Pollock enchants and animates London. It’s entirely a matter of preference, but the magic wasn’t to my taste. It’s like eggs: some like them scrambled and some like them poached. Pollock’s magic is scrambled; I wanted it poached.

I expected more magic, a deeper vein of wonder and excitement and something to draw me in, and instead I felt as though I was viewing the events through thick glass. I tried to fall in love with this book. I wanted to—the synopsis is what brought me here and I loved the synopsis.

Pollock wrote a good story, a good book. That’s not in question. I’m not certain he wrote a good ending—which was the absolute worst part of the book, for me—and trying to figure out just what will happen in the sequel and the final book thereafter perplexes me: it feels like the story is already done and dusted.

This London is gritty and dark and magical and enchanted, but it just absolutely wasn’t the kind of magic or enchantment that makes me tick. I hate finding books that make me realise I’m just going through the motions of reading, and this was one of them.

If you want to dip your little toe in the murky, dark fantasy that Pollock writes, giving a go to his unique blend of urban fantasy and brickwork, street mythology—then go for it. It’s worth a try and it’s received excellent reviews elsewhere. It’s very popular over at Fantasy Faction.

It’s insightful and paints a darkly enchanted picture of London and its streets—but I’m just not under its spell.



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