Review: THE CITY’S SON by Tom Pollock

The City’s Son, the debut novel by Tom Pollock, shares it’s lineage with works such as Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. Like those books, it features a hidden, magical London. Pollock’s London, though, is a decidedly more sinister and while it is nominally a young adult novel (plucky young heroine and hero against the world), there is definite note of horror in book. Pollock’s monsters and heroes, for instance, are created out of the rubbish city. The titular character, Filius Viae, is a young man the color of pavement, who sweats petrol. His is the son of the goddess of the streets, and his nursemaid/mentor is a gendershifting creature made of garbage and vermin. He rules over (or befriends, at any rate) various creatures, such as living streetlamp spirits and statues. The main antagonist (or “Big Bad”) is the god of decay, called Reach, and his various minions. The protagonist, a young grafitti artist, Beth Bradley, falls into the middle of this war.  The plot, a fairly standard one, runs along at brisk clip, with many scenes of violence and action. It’s the details of the world building that the book shines. Images of rot and decay, its smells and textures, ooze through the novel and it’s language. Tar, condoms, skittering roaches, slither through the the transformed city; the idea that there’s magic in cast-off things is a good one. The taxonomy of the creatures is clever.  While Reach has a bit of a Sauron thing going, Mater Viae, the goddess of the streets, is only marginally better. Like the gods of Greek and Egyptian mythology, she can be capricious and cruel. Pollock’s take on magic is inventive and full of wonder, and it is disgusting at the same time—a rare feat, indeed. The novel is the first in a series called The Skyscraper Throne. Those that like their fantasy gritty and grimy will find much to enjoy.

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