Backlist Review: The City's Son by Tom Pollock

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Title: The City's Son
Author: Tom Pollock
Genre: young-adult, supernatural
Series: The Skyscraper Throne #1
Pages: 480 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: August 2 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 5/5

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.

Welcome to a London come alive with voice-eating spiders, mirror-dwelling aristocrats, and talking lights that literally dance upon the streets. A London where Gods and Goddesses walk the roads unnoticed by the normal human population, and fight one another for preeminence and control over their decaying world. Welcome to Tom Pollock's The City's Son, a novel that redefines both the 'urban' and 'fantasy' in the urban fantasy genre; a novel that brings a whole new meaning to the idea of place-as-character. Though the beginning can be hard to understand and uneven, the reward is outstanding. A fast-paced and action-packed novel packed to the brim with unique, strange, and thoroughly charismatic characters, the first novel in the Skyscraper Throne series is a whole lot of win.

Beautifully written and extensively detailed, there is no area of London that Pollock has not re-envisioned and changed -- for the stranger. Through the eyes of the two main characters - human Beth and Son of the Streets Filius Viae, Pollock takes the reader on a thoroughly original and weird (the kind of weird I tend to expect from China Mieville) journey to self-realization, personal power, and more. Though I am not usually a fan of POV shifts from third-person limited to first person during narrator changes, it works here for Beth and the Urchin Prince. Beth is outside the city; Fil is literally part of it and how they spin their inner monologues help to illustrate that point. Both characters have their individual strengths and weaknesses, but it is the feisty, charismatic, damaged, and fully concrete character of Beth that is the strength of this novel.

The characters here are on par with the talent and time spent setting the scene and creating the original plot. Beth is a wholly rounded and concrete girl. She's realistically flawed, even in a book that suspends disbelief so well. She is feisty, and smart, and loyal, if not always right in her judgements. I have a lot of respect for Beth and the character evolution she goes through during this long but easily read novel. Filius is likeable if unknowable - he's as unique a character as this version of London. Part street rat, part teenage boy, and all heart - the relationship between the two matures organically and best of all, slowly.  If I have one issue, I had hoped that Parva's storyline with the teacher would've had a more firm resolution, but she stands strong as a secondary character with motivations and aspirations all her own.

There is just so much creativity and imagination at work in The City's Son, and it can be a lot to take in, especially initially. The author drops the reader into his darkly, dirtily magical world without exposition or infodump.The sheer scope of the world that Pollock has created for his characters to operate in is expansive and all encompassing, from the made-of-trash Gutterglass who operates as a seneschal for the missing Lady of the Streets, to the war between the Sodiumite glass girls and the Blankleit clans, to the train battles between Bahngeists. Like I said, this is an author that brings the city of London to life - literally - it's place as character on a whole new level. 

I loved this novel. Though it is one of the longer books I've read lately, it holds up admirably under the weight of all those pages, and plots, and schemes. With an imagination as big as London itself, Tom Pollock renders a finely-tuned and thoroughly evocative novel aimed for readers of all ages. Fans of urban fantasy should take note and give this weirdly awesome and awesomely weird novel a chance. You won't regret giving The City's Son a chance. I eagerly await he second novel, The Glass Republic -- it definitely can't come out soon enough.


  1. This sounds EXACTLY like my kind of book! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Jessie, and if it wasn't for you, I doubt I would have even heard of this phenomenal tale! I want to pick it up at once, especially because the characters and world-building seems to be so well-written! Stunning review and thank you so much for sharing! :D

    Ivy Book Bindings

    1. Read it! Yes! I am so sad more people haven't heard of this, because it honestly is the best UF I've read in ages. It's wonderful, weird, and imaginative. And thank you, Keertana, for the compliments! It's always nice to see your name on my blog :)

  2. Sorry to bother you on the blog, but I'm not sure my emails are making it to you. Please send along your mailing address so we can get the short story collection, Enchantment, to you for the reading later this month.


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