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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare imagination
It's always a real treat to read a debut novelist that can write so well and has a superb imagination. Pollack's view of an alternate London `that is all around us' might be gritty, dark, and tough, but it's bursting with positivity, too. The inhabitants of this alternate London-- even those whose deaths have been stolen from them--are generally upbeat and prepared to do...
Published on 13 Sep 2012 by C. Mc Geever

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over praised
This book has received delirious levels of praise, which I don't think it deserves. It is clearly aimed at young adults - although its marketing doesn't acknowledge this - and for my taste, its teenage protagonists are tiresomely obsessed with themselves and each other. Yes the author is imaginative, but the over-written, gushing imagery is reminiscent of Disney cartoon...
Published 2 months ago by Londonist


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare imagination, 13 Sep 2012
By 
C. Mc Geever - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The City's Son (Skyscraper Throne) (Hardcover)
It's always a real treat to read a debut novelist that can write so well and has a superb imagination. Pollack's view of an alternate London `that is all around us' might be gritty, dark, and tough, but it's bursting with positivity, too. The inhabitants of this alternate London-- even those whose deaths have been stolen from them--are generally upbeat and prepared to do their bit to save their city when it is threatened. With a little push, of course.

Other reviewers have already outlined the plot so I won't go into details. In some places the prose positively sparkles, while in other places you forget about the words and just allow their rhythm to carry you down into some very deep and very dark places. I thought the characters could have benefitted from some more `deep penetration' pov in places. Apart from this, and some mildly explanatory passages near the end, I would highly recommend this book for its pace, originality, and honesty. The ending isn't happy, but left me satisfied and looking forward to the next book in the series, The Glass Republic.

I will never walk through Stoke Newington cemetery again without looking at the headstones and statues and wondering what might lie behind them. As for the Docklands, well . . .
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The City's Son - Fantasy Book Review, 1 Aug 2012
By 
Alice Wybrew (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The City's Son (Skyscraper Throne) (Hardcover)
London has forever been a city that inspires fiction. From the famous works of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle to more recent releases such as Audrey Niffenegger's A Fearful Symmetry, England's capital has always been a popular setting for make-believe.

Over recent years, London has featured prominently in genre fiction, with the city cropping up as the host for ever-more imaginative escapades. In Sarah Silverwood's The Double-Edged Sword (Gollancz, 2010) multiple versions of the capital exist on different plains, each more mythical and fantastic than the previous, while in China Mieville's Unlundun (Tor, 2007) an extraordinary flipside to the city is uncovered by two twelve-year old school girls.

Debut author Tom Pollock is merely the latest in a string of genre authors to utilise the capital as the setting for his fantasy frolics, but he does so with aplomb.

In The City's Son, London is a city falling apart (in more ways than one). Set primarily in the East End, where glass skyscrapers are emerging between the rubble and the abandoned, urban expanses of the Docklands reign, Pollock's tale presents London in its truest form. The contrast of modernisation, embodied by Canary Wharf and the city, with forgotten urban landscapes that stretch the length of the Thames, is deftly depicted, emphasising the city's jarring architectural and geographical juxtaposition as it stands today.

It is within this giant building site of a city that Beth, a rebellious graffiti-loving teenager, discovers a new life, one where sentient trains hunt her down, luminous glass people dance on estates and humans live forever trapped in bodies of stone. Voice-stealing spiders harvest human vocals and oil-soaked men flick cigarette lighters for fun. It is in the midst of these creatures where the real city lies, and Beth's journey of discovery is a superbly enjoyable one.

Characteristically though, Beth serves more as a vehicle through which the reader accesses Pollock's London than she does anything else. While she's engaging enough and far from disagreeable, she doesn't stand out from the `tormented teenager' crowd. That title is reserved for Filius Viae, the son of the Goddess of the Streets, and who is in contrast one of the best aspects of the novel. With skin the colour of concrete, oil for sweat, and possessing a metamorphosing pile of garbage for a best friend, he is by every definition `the city's son'. But Fil stands out principally because beneath his literally tough skin, he remains a teenage boy, one who's never known his mother and who is now faced with the colossal responsibility of saving his world from complete devastation.

There's a vast array of great supporting characters to enjoy here as well, the likes of which are punctuated by the Russian tramp Victor and leader of the imposing Chemical Synods Johnny Naptha. The patriarch of evil, Reach, is a malevolent being awaiting physical embodiment, but whose terror successfully reigns supreme throughout the book.

In amongst all this however, The City's Son possesses a few problems.

Stylistically, Pollock's fluctuation between third person story-telling and first person POV (reserved entirely for Fil) doesn't always work, with the intervals at which Fil's POV feature feeling somewhat erratic. In addition, the Filius presented in the first person segments is sometimes hard to reconcile with that of the third person, so different is the characterisation.

Narratively there are also a few noticeable bumps. The abusive relationship between Pen (Beth's best friend) and her school teacher is established early on and then ignored until the end of the book. A seemingly key piece of information in Pen's character development, it feels strange to bring up and then abandon, such treatment leaving it hanging over her character throughout the book.

Further details on how the city's more interesting inhabitants go unnoticed by the general populous would've also benefited the story, as although a degree of explanation is offered (a huge battle on Chelsea bridge between giant wire wolves and stone statues was reported as an earthquake) one or two moments of interaction with London's public would've lent the book a little extra credibility.

These are minor gripes however in a book that is by any standards impressive. The imagination with which Pollock reinvigorates the city is astounding, and his creations, whether it's the Sodiumites or the Pavement Priests, the Scaffwolves of the Railwraiths, are wonderful incarnations of a city whose character is still very much bound up in its suburbs.

Imaginative, innovative and bursting with creativity, this is a wonderfully confident debut that will have even the most critical fantasy fans clamouring for more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over praised, 17 Oct 2014
By 
Londonist (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This book has received delirious levels of praise, which I don't think it deserves. It is clearly aimed at young adults - although its marketing doesn't acknowledge this - and for my taste, its teenage protagonists are tiresomely obsessed with themselves and each other. Yes the author is imaginative, but the over-written, gushing imagery is reminiscent of Disney cartoon fantasy. There's a complete absence of grit here, and the characters are difficult to take seriously. As some other reviewers have observed, there are far better writers in this genre. If you enjoy Neil Gaiman and China Mieville, take a look at Ben Aaronovitch, Benedict Jacka and Paul Cornell.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmmm., 10 Sep 2014
By 
Katy May (West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This was ....ok. I couldn't really engage with it (despite a good opening chapter) but equally, I couldn't see why I was struggling. The storyline was interesting, although it felt very familiar, the writing was ok and the characters were alright, although they did feel rather flat. In fact, I found the whole story rather flat and unengaging. Ultimately, this felt like a YA novel which drew heavily on Charlie Fletcher, Neil Gaiman and China Meiville without replicating some of the factors which make their writing som much more alive.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Lifeless, 7 Dec 2014
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I was tempted into this by some good reviews and an interesting sounding concept. Unfortunately the lack of subtlety or any real depth left me cold and not a little bored.
The book is essentially a work of young adult fiction, and holds tightly on to the tropes of that genre - Young, misunderstood heroine - check, moody but complex teenage boy love interest - check, etc. etc. The premise of an unseen, mystical world under and around modern day London is an interesting one, but the potential is hardly touched upon. Instead Pollock gets mired down into the melodrama of his teen leads, whilst simultaneously shoving left wing politics down your throat. It's a political view that's not dissimilar to my own but I really object to the unsubtle way Pollock down this. Pollock also touches on real world issues of bereavement and abuse, but they are skirted over in a very superficial way. It's almost like they were ideas that he felt he had to cover but couldn't really find ways to properly weave them into the storyline.
Despite the criticisms there are some things to like. The writing style and descriptions are strong, and it does move along at a good pace. Some if the set pieces are well realised and a couple of the supporting characters and races are imaginative and well realised. The third act is undoubtedly the strongest, not coincidentally where the politics are put largely to the side.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, much as I usually enjoy fantasy stories., 30 Sep 2014
By 
Amazon Customer (Bingley, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Could not get into the book at all.
Disappointed. Was swayed by good reviews- it was not much of an extravagance and I've been introduced to some wonderful authors over the years via Amazon customers reviews.

imaginative, Yes, but I abandoned ship when a writing style I found a hard read became a tedious, depressing read.
Will revisit some time in case the fault was mine.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing, yet underwhelming fantasy, 28 Aug 2012
By 
Leo Elijah Cristea (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The City's Son (Skyscraper Throne) (Hardcover)
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars London's Hidden Face Revealed, 31 July 2012
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This review is from: The City's Son (Skyscraper Throne) (Hardcover)
I remember reading somewhere, years ago, that a city has many faces. I couldn't tell now where I read the phrase, but I liked the idea and it has always stayed with me. I've since come to the conclusion that when I'm reading well written urban fantasy the author is sharing tantalizing glimpses of these faces. The City's Son, the debut novel by Tom Pollock, is a great example of this phenomenon. As the plot unfolds the reader gets to discover what lies behind the façade of the London we are all so familiar with.

When Beth is first introduced she is already a creature of the streets in her own way. Unruly and unforgiving due to problems at home, she escapes via the sights and sounds of the city. A chance encounter reveals a hidden side of London and Beth finds herself in the midst of a turf war between two opposing forces. Beth's guide on this journey is the enigmatic Fil, part human and part something else. The relationship that develops between the two forms the core of the novel. Both are looking for answers to the mysteries in their lives and they very quickly form a strong bond.

Fil's mother, Mater Viae, is the goddess of London's streets. She is the embodiment of history and tradition, bricks and mortar. Mater Viae has existed since time immemorial. Meanwhile her opponent is known simply as Reach, the Crane King. Reach is driven by demolition and renovation; he draws his power from towers of glass and steel. These two characters opposing viewpoints work perfectly to illustrate the clash of cultures that has developed in this escalating cold war.

It's almost Inevitable that there are going to be comparisons to other existing London based urban fantasy novels, Neverwhere, The Devil You Know and Sixty One Nails all immediately spring to mind, but I genuinely don't think that these comparisons are necessary. Pollock has crafted a tale that is unique and deserves to be treated as such. If anything, the alternate reality that exists in The City's Son reminded me more of the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli than another novel. This `other London' is a shadowy world of sentient tube trains, pylon spiders and reincarnated criminals trapped in stone, can you imagine what Studio Ghibli could do with that? It's certainly on my list of things I'd be willing to sell my soul to see.

There are a host of memorable characters and factions whose names and descriptions conjure up some wonderfully evocative imagery. From the sleazy powerbroker Johnny Naptha and the members of the Chemical Synod, the evangelical Pavement Priests, or Fil's faithful servant, Gutterglass. Everyone you meet is going to stay with you. I loved the idea that this alternative society of fantastical beings exists just on the periphery of our own, hidden in plain sight.

Wait, I haven't even got around to mentioning the fact that there are cats have I? Not just any old cats mind you. Oh no, these are very special cats. Obviously I'm going to be entirely evil and not tell you why, that would be far to spoilery. Lets just stick with - they are extremely important and based on this shocking revelation it's highly likely that I'll never be able to look at my two cats the same way ever again.

Pollock's debut is a modern day fairy-tale wrapped up in the very cleverest of urban fantasy disguises. I was caught up in this roller-coaster adventure from the off and I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series. In fact, while I have your attention Internet - do me a favour will you? Pass on the following message to the powers that be - I demand someone stand over Tom Pollock and not let him move from his keyboard until book two is finished.

Last year, one of my favourite novels was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It looks suspiciously like this year my favourite novel is again to come from a debut Young Adult author. Actually, thinking about it, categorizing this novel as Young Adult seems a trifle unfair. Like the anime of Studio Ghibli, this is a story that works on a number of levels and will appeal to young and old alike. The City's Son isn't just a good example of a Young Adult novel, it's a good example of a novel full stop.

The City's Son is published by Jo Fletcher Books and is available from 2nd August. Its sequel, The Glass Republic, is set to follow next year.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars be aware this is a Young Adult book, 9 Sep 2013
By 
CB (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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If I`d been 50 years younger I would have loved it. As it was, I`ll leave this one to the Twilight fans. Nice book - but definitely for young teens.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Original, 25 Nov 2014
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This is a wonderfully original fantasy. I have really enjoyed reading this book and its sequels (and this story grows through each book so stick with it!). The London the author has imagined is gritty and fantastical in some very original ways. The twists and turns in the story are unpredictable and therefore doubly enjoyable. A very good read for teens and adults alike.
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The City's Son (Skyscraper Throne)
The City's Son (Skyscraper Throne) by Tom Pollock (Hardcover - 2 Aug 2012)
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