Sunday, February 24, 2013
Review: The City's Son by Tom Pollock
Title: The City's Son (The Skyscraper Throne, #1)
Author: Tom Pollock
Rating: 2 Stars/DNF
You need to know one thing before you delve into this review: I am making a conscious effort to not continue books I don't feel much for. Ever since I joined GoodReads last year, I've felt incredible guilty about DNFing novels, but on every account, I've either finished a bad book and given it a bad rating or finished a good book that just didn't work for me and given it an indifferent rating. Either way, by reading just over half the novel, I am able to discern whether the book is worth my time or not and usually, it isn't. Thus, I told myself this year that it really is okay to put down books unfinished and use that time to read another book, one that I will preferably love. Well, with The City's Son, this is the situation. Pollock's debut is a good novel, certainly, but it just isn't one for me and the flaws I found within it were too egregious for me to ignore and enjoy this story.
The City's Son, being a YA Urban Fantasy read, seems like something right up my alley - and it is. Where this novel falls flat, though, is in a lot of small aspects that, when combined, totally lost my attention. First and foremost, the story is told from the dual perspectives of Fil and Beth. Beth is a graffiti artist, a normal girl like any of us, only tougher for the death of her mother and subsequent grief of her father has made her fend for herself. Fil, on the other hand, is the son of the goddess of the London streets where this story takes place. From the very beginning itself, Pollock thoroughly immerses the reader in the world he has created - only, without much of a rope to hold on to, leaving them flailing about in the dark, drowning waters.
You see, Fil's perspective is littered full of strange names and weird remarks which begin to make a little more sense as the story wears on, but is initially extremely confusing. Furthermore, the manner in which his story arc crosses with that of Beth's is rather unbelievable. Beth, who has been betrayed by her best friend who ratted her out and now suspended from her school, has her life saved by Fil and then proceeds to join him on his quest to defeat the Crane King, the powerful lord trying to kill him. What I found strange about this was the fact that Beth never stopped to question or wonder why a Wraith, a mystical creature, was attacking her and she accepted the reality of Fil's magical life with ease. In addition, beyond a few initial doubts about Beth, Fil quickly takes her on as a partner, despite the fact that she is a liability to him.
Thus, the set-up of this story itself is very strange and was difficult for me to grasp. Over and above that, though, I found the dialogue to be awkward and the writing wasn't all that remarkable either. I will give Pollock credit for a rich and imaginative world, but with such little foundation of world-building - or simply world-building that emerges too late - I was unable to enjoy his unique take on London. Nevertheless, there are redeeming characteristics. For one, I just adored Beth's best friend, Pen. Pen is a Muslim and is constantly picked on by her maths teacher (not because of her nationality though - the true reason is far worse), which is why Beth is constantly sticking up for her. We are witness to a few scenes from Pen's PoV and these I simply loved! Pen is a strong, resilient character who has been through a lot in life. She looks up to Beth and tries her best to be just as powerful as Beth is, although she lacks the exterior aura. Unlike Beth, whose method of coping is to ignore them and shove them to the back of her mind where they fail to interfere with her adventures, Pen is much more damaged and nuanced.
Although I do really like Beth, I didn't find that she brought anything wholly new to the realm of kick-ass heroines. Fil, in my eyes, was forgettable as well. In addition to Pen, though, we see a few scenes told from Beth's father and his guilt, remorse, and worry for his daughter was very moving. After the death of his wife, Beth's father became a mere shell of himself and although he tried to be there for Beth, he simply couldn't. It is clear, though, that he cares very much for his daughter and is extremely proud of her artistic accomplishments. I loved how his story arc, Pen's story arc, Fil's story arc, and Beth's all came together, making for a very intriguing plot.
So, really, The City's Son has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, I didn't feel much for its two main characters and the world-building was truly lost on me, making this the type of book I kept feeling as if I needed to go back and re-read, just because I was so confused. Nevertheless, Pollock's debut has a lot to offer for fans of UF, so I'd urge readers to check it out - despite my low rating.