Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock

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A scar of lightning flashed in the sky. With a final savage roar, the weird clouds opened.
Swollen drops began to streak past the window pane in strange colours, red and black and silvery grey. The water here must be filthy, Pen thought.
A dull reddish fragment of something thunked into the window and skittered away. Pen stared at the trail of dusty mortar it left, and then realised, it wasn’t raining water…
It was raining masonry.
464 pages
Published August 2013by Jo Fletcher Books (an imprint of Quercus Publishing) 
Summary from Jo Fletcher books 
Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror. Pen’s reflected twin is the only girl who really understands her.
Then Parva is abducted and Pen makes a terrible bargain for the means to track her down. In London-Under-Glass looks are currency, and Pen’s scars make her a rare and valuable commodity. But some in the reflected city will do anything to keep Pen from the secret of what happened to the sister who shared her face.
*****
Reviewed by K. M. Lockwood
This sequel to The City’s Son shows a similar leaping inventiveness to the first in the Skyscraper Throne trilogy. It features strong female characters and almost literally holds up a mirror to our own society’s attitudes on beauty and celebrity.
Whilst it helps if you have read The City’s Son, this story is self-contained. You need to be on the ball reading it, though. There’s total immersion in the world of this urban fantasy and it’s down to you to work things out as you go along.
It is particularly fast-paced towards the end, and although the imagination of the first book is still there, I’d say there’s an even better grasp of plot this time. It will suit fluent readers from secondary school upwards who engage with fantasy in a contemporary city setting.
Many will appreciate the touch of romance amongst all the dramatic events – it is delicately and tenderly done. It’s only right to point out that there some fairly horrific scenes and appropriate swearing to go with that. It’s not for kindergarten.
The surrealism and wider implications of the story give The Glass Republic a hint of Les Miserables through the Looking Glass. It’s none the worse for politics blended with the downright weird, if that appeals to you. It will be very interesting to read what Tom Pollock does to complete the trilogy in ‘Our Lady of the Streets’.

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