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7 of 7 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 22 months ago by C. Mc Geever

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing, yet underwhelming fantasy
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...
Published 22 months ago by Leo Elijah Cristea


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7 of 7 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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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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4 of 4 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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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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every now and then you find a book like this..., 2 Oct 2012
By 
Glen Mehn (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Every now and then, you find a book that makes you want to look around corners, peer over walls, climb into wardrobes, and climb down manholes seeking the world that must be there. A book that makes you believe again, for a little while.

This is one of those books.

Beth, a graffiti artist is excluded from school, and finds a strange young man who lets her see that world, and she takes it, heedless of the cost

This is a YA book, ostensibly, but it treats its reader right, to good & evil, love & loss, life & death, and trains.
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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
By 
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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10 of 13 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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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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastical London, 4 Aug 2012
By 
Curiosity Killed The Bookworm (Dorset, UK) - See all my reviews
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London City is alive. When Beth and her best friend Pen are caught spraying graffiti at their school, Pen turns Beth in. Reeling from the betrayal, Beth stumbles into another London, one where railwraiths transport memories of passengers, where the lights are living glass people who dance at night, where the statues are imprisoned men, repaying their debts to their absent goddess, and where a danger threatens the very essence of the city that no one sees. And that city has a son.

Wow, I'm not sure how much I can express my love of Tom Pollock's hidden London without spoiling the discovery for others. It reminds me of how children's imaginations create worlds out of the incredibly mundane environment that surrounds them, street lights can be beautiful and exotic women that dance and flirt and real dangers such as trains and barbed wire can be turned into monsters.

After Beth's ride on the railwraith she meets Filius, son of Mater Viae, the goddess who the creatures of London worship. At first, she takes him for a dirty street urchin but she saves his life and he hers and she finds herself following him further into his world, where Reach threatens the existence of those who have called the streets home for centuries. Reach is the god of cranes; they appear on the horizon wherever he is erecting his mirrored skyscrapers, something residents of London will know well. Reach represents progress destroying the character and essence of London.

Meanwhile, Pen has her reasons for her betrayal to Beth and her story is a sad one. She sees Beth's paintings on the walls and follows her, with no inclination of the danger she could be in. Amongst the story of the city there are some very real themes threaded throughout and I think Pen's parting words sums things up perfectly. Beth's father is also suffering from deep depression after the loss of his wife and Beth's mother and now he must face the idea that his daughter is lost too. There are some incredibly touching moments amongst the fantastical.

There is also a spattering of humour, mostly from the wonderful character of Victor, a homeless Russian who offers his translation services and whose friendly manner evolves into a sort of surrogate father figure for Beth. This lightens what is otherwise a dark, yet utterly brilliant tale.

There's no denying that The City's Son put's the urban into urban fantasy, the setting being crucial. Scenes may be a little disturbing for younger readers although I'm not sure it's being marketed towards young adults despite the teenage characters.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best YA fantasies I've read in years, 3 Aug 2012
When Beth Bradley takes artistic revenge on the teacher making life hell for her best friend Pen Khan, the last thing she expects is for Pen to grass her up. Expelled from school and with her father grief-consumed by her mother's death, she turns to the streets where she meets Filius Viae who shows her a world filled with rail wraiths, Sodiumites, pylon spiders and pavement priests.

But Filius's world is a dangerous one. Reach, the god of demolition, wants Filius dead and has been extending his control of London since Filius's mother, the Lady of the Streets, disappeared years earlier. To stop him, Filius must raise an army and he needs Beth to help him. But Pen needs Beth too. And when she goes to make things right with her friend, Beth finds both her worlds coming apart ...

Tom Pollock's debut YA novel, the first in a trilogy is a stunningly creative tale filled with wonderful imagery and fascinating characters.

Filius has a strong, original first person voice and the linguistic flourishes to his speech helped to ground him. I liked how his cockiness hides the insecurity caused by his mother's abandonment and how grows into his own skin. I actually wanted more of his point of view because he is so interesting.

Beth's character arc is well handled and I liked how her mix of pragmatism and fierce loyalty. Her friendship with Pen is strongly depicted and while I'd have liked to see more of her relationship with her dad, there's enough there to give a good sense of it.

The imagination in this book is astounding. Pollock takes the familiar elements of London and makes them magical such that you can't walk around the city and not see it as Filius does.

It's a fast paced read, perhaps a little too fast-paced towards the end as I needed time to breathe and reflect (but this is a petty gripe). If I've got any criticism it's that I didn't quite buy Pen's backstory, which is a shame because she's a fascinating character and it's great to see a Muslim character who isn't defined by her faith and whose journey is emotionally painful.

This is one of the best YA fantasies I've read in years and one of the best debuts I've read in 2012. I'd definitely recommend checking it out.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars blown away by Pollock's creative debut, 2 Aug 2012
Caroline for [...]
Copy received from Netgalley in exchange for in honest review

Despite it's familiar UK location, reading The City's Son, felt like tumbling down a rabbit hole, in to an unexpected and magical world filled with fantastical creatures. The irony is that this isn't a separate, or secret world. This is our London.

Shunning the usual attractions, Pollock takes us on a sightseeing tour of the grubbier, graffiti strewn, and unsavory parts of our capital city. The parts that won't be being showcased by the British tourist board this summer. Unhidden but unvalued, Filius' kingdom is ignored or explained away.

For me there is nothing better than when an author really captures the atmosphere of a location, suspending my disbelief and transporting me in to the mist of the story. There were times when I was so absorbed in Pollock's world building that my stomach lurched from his descriptions and I felt the desire to take a shower.

Despite the, at times, repulsive nature of Filius' London I couldn't help but share the characters affection for the city, not in spite of but, because of its untamed and scruffy nature.

When I say that Pollock brought London to life, I don't just mean metaphorically. Pollock takes the mundane fabric of the city and doesn't just craft a believable, if not uncomfortable environment, but the very creatures cohabiting London with us. I certainly won't look at a flickering street lamp or a coil of barbed wire in the same way!

The City's Son is told predominately from the first person perspectives of Filius the street urchin, prince and the 3rd person point of views of Beth a teenage graffiti artist and Pen her poet friend. Rather than causing confusion, I found that the multiple perspectives actually enriching to the story. Pollock reserved the first person perspective for Filius, allowing me in to the mind of the street prince and enabling me to accept this unusual character and his associates without question.

I was really impressed with Pollock's development of strong female characters and the emphasis on forms of strength other than the physical; emotional strength, independence, courage and resilience.

I really enjoyed the exploration of friendship and relationships portrayed within the book. The developing relationship between the main characters felt natural and unrushed and while it left me with a warm fuzzy feeling in the mist of all the fast paced action, it certainly wouldn't put off readers who don't enjoy that aspect as much as I do.

I didn't consider myself particularly fearful before I started reading The City's Son, but Pollock's descriptive narrative, hitched my breathing and spiked my pulse rate as I found myself simultaneously freaked out and thrilled by the phobic inducing characters and situations he crafted.

Verdict: The City's Son blew me away with its originality and creativity. I can't help rub my hands in glee with the thought that there will be two more installments!
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4.0 out of 5 stars The city's son, 8 April 2014
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I randomly selected this book from my kindle hd store s special offers,I had never heard of this author but the blurb I read intrigued me ,so I started to read the book and after only 5mins I found myself totally engrossed and immersed in the world of Tom Pollocks character.
SO if you want an exciting fast paced read ,then this is the book for you, I hope you enjoy the read as much as I did .x
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4.0 out of 5 stars Railwraiths, lightbulb militia, punishment priests, and scaffolding wolves!, 19 Mar 2014
This review is from: The City's Son: 1 (The Skyscraper Throne) (Paperback)
Railwraiths, lightbulb militia, punishment priests, and scaffolding wolves!

Tom Pollock did something marvelous with The City’s Son. He created a populace of people that inhabit a city and yet are made of the city itself! The story has a quick enough pace to have you sitting up and paying attention as the action flings you through the pages.

The details are rich and often disturbing. Pollock has a great descriptive writing style that wasn’t over the top for me. I could visualize the creatures and people of the city but wasn’t so bogged down by flowery details that often annoy me in the way some other authors write. In fact I loved how this was a YA book and yet it was still intense and gritty. Then unexpectedly I would be surprised by a random bit of poetry.

“…you might be the puzzle-piece of me, I’ve never seen.” 3% on the Kindle app

I also have to include this quote below because I found it so romantic in the quirkiest way. It made my heart bleed.

“Do I scare you witless enough to make you brave?” 92% on the Kindle app

The story of The City’s Son sucked me right in and the mystery of it all kept me there. I was immediately taken with Beth and her tough yet vulnerable personality. However, there was a small downside to having so much action – such that shortly after Beth and Filius met I felt like I didn’t get to know Filius as well as I should have. There were quite a few different POV’s that were present, which I always love if done well, and it certainly was!

Absolutely looking forward to the next book!
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The City's Son: 1 (The Skyscraper Throne)
The City's Son: 1 (The Skyscraper Throne) by Tom Pollock (Paperback - 6 Jun 2013)
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