Tuesday 20 November 2012

The City’s Son by Tom Pollock

Published by Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus) in August 2012
454 pages
I’m hunting. The sun sits low over Battersea, its rays streaking the brickwork like warpaint as I pad through the railway tunnels. My prey can’t be far ahead now: there’s a bitter burnt stench in the air, and every few yards I find another charred bundle that used to be a rat.

Good Reads Summary:
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

As is clear from the very first paragraph, The City’s Son is not for the faint of heart. It is a lively and demanding urban fantasy full of great invention. The whole novel pulsates with imaginative creations such as the eponymous Filius Viae, and the reader is led into an exhilarating, terrifying alternative London.
The story runs deeper than mere cleverness however and there is much to terrify, elate and at times, shock. We are led through a world of dazzling urban splendour, always with a gritty edge, and there are moments of betrayal, tenderness and grim humour.
Readers need to be happy with shifts of viewpoint (first person and third) and adult language. As a rule, although violent and distressing on occasion, it is not gratuitously so. Without giving away spoilers, there are twists and turns in the plot that the reader really needs to keep a track of.
You would enjoy this if you like the desperation and shifts in allegiance of The Hunger Games, and the strange counter-world of Good Omens. I can’t say much more or I might ruin the read, but it is clearly part of a sequence. This is no bad thing if you revel in this other-London.
I would suggest that the language in it (which is by no means in appropriate in context) means it can’t really be recommended for younger readers- which is a shame. It might have been a good idea to invent an alternative vocabulary. This is a very minor point, however, and there is a great deal to enjoy and empathise with.
Highly recommended for those who thrive on complex, gritty works full of surreal enchantment.


  1. Great review but alas probably not a read for me.

  2. great review. I wasnt sure about this one becuase of some of the things you mention… its gritty urban fantasy status, its language and its surreality but I absolutely loved it and it made me want to venture out of my comfort zone into this kind of thing more often :)


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