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Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Urchin, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Urchin opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen-where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze.

But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Urchin’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Urchin raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.

482 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 1, 2012

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About the author

Tom Pollock

15 books263 followers
Tom is a long-time fan of science fiction and fantasy, and has failed spectacularly to grow out of his obsession with things that don’t, in the strictest sense of the word, exist. He studied Philosophy and Economics at Edinburgh University. He now lives and works in London helping to build very big ships. The City’s Son is his first novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 329 reviews
Profile Image for Tom Pollock.
Author 15 books263 followers
July 3, 2017
Well, I did write it... I'm pretty damn biased.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,132 reviews309 followers
June 27, 2017
This book is an analogue to all those stories where the main characters have a deep connection to nature and supernatural elements of the natural world. London is the setting here, and every element arises from the built environment of the City.

To say Pollock has brought the City to life would be an understatement. The setting is so richly drawn and integral to the story that it really is almost a character itself. The main living characters - Fil, Beth, and Pen - are equally well realised, and each comes with their own unique history, voice, and part to play.

Relationships are key here, and we get a taste of the love and tension that exists in families, friendships, and also in those potential relationships that may or may not ever be fully realised. Self-identity plays an equally important role, and we see how the characters changing notions about themselves affects everything around them.

Using these wonderfully crafted building blocks of setting and character, Pollock has woven a story of love and war, loss and gain, and ultimately, one of metamorphosis. The end result is one of the richest and most deeply developed YA books in the urban fantasy genre currently out there.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,260 reviews222 followers
June 22, 2017
This review is from my June 2017 reread, having first read this book soon after it came out.

Beth Bradley is a young artist who has increasingly been spending time on the streets as her father fails to cope with the death of her mother. Beth's best friend Pen Khan is usually her partner in crime, but when she unexpectedly turns on her, Beth turns to the streets and an encounter with a strange teenage boy named Filius Viae. Filius's world is a very different city with train ghosts, lamp-people and a devouring god named Reach with construction cranes for fingers.

There are a lot of these books about a London ur-city and the comparisons are easy to draw, from Neverwhere and Un Lun Dun to Kraken and Rivers of London. This one definitely fits in there, with its nods to the thousand year history of the city, themes around urban decay and renewal and rich imagining of fantastic creatures that are literally parts of the city rather than just fantastic denizens of it. The stories of Beth, Pen and Beth's father Paul are also well realized although clearly just beginning.

Pen's story is next and I'm looking forward to reading it. There's an interesting line at the end of this one that resonates with what Pen discovers in the next book, something I hadn't realized in my first time through with these.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
March 30, 2016
'The City's Son' reminded me of Neil Gaiman's 'Neverwhere,' with its hidden London full of mysterious beings and supernatural elements. Indeed, London itself is the most memorable 'character' in this book.

Our 'guide,' whom the reader follows into this netherworld, is an ordinary girl, Beth. A talented artist, she's slipped into delinquency since her mother's death. Emotionally, she relies heavily on her best friend, Pen. When the evidence suggests that Pen has ratted her out and betrayed her, she runs away - and encounters a strange boy, Filius, who tells her that he is the son of an absent goddess. Not only that, but in the goddess' absence, the city is heading straight for disaster, as her nemesis, the Crane King is stirring, with destruction in his wake.

Filius' goal is to follow the suggestion of his mentor and to try to rally his mother's allies to fight Reach, the Crane King. With Beth at his side, it seems like he might have more of a chance than he once did. But it may come down to Beth having to make a decision as to where her loyalties lie - with her oldest friend, or with the chance-met boy who has turned her to something rich and strange - and with whom she thinks she may be falling in love.

There were some good elements to this YA story, but also some I could've done without. I could've dispensed with the budding romance completely. The names of many of the supernatural characters felt a bit silly (The names are all based on words for the thing they're a personification of). Pen's Muslim family, and the character of a Russian alcoholic, did not transcend typical stereotypes (and I really wanted them to.) Pen goes through some really awful, traumatic experiences in the book which are dealt with oddly lightly. I found myself more interested in her story arc & viewpoint, and felt like she was very much shortchanged.

In addition, the book felt like it was attempting to get across a 'message' - without being sure of what that message should be. The elements of the city here - lights, statues, buildings, trains, etc, all have - or house - beings, in much the way that trees might host dryads. The Crane King is killing and destroying those beings - but doesn't he want to build something new? Filius and his 'side' don't seem all that unambiguously 'good,' either. It wasn't really clear why anyone was on the side they were on. At first I thought it was getting at "old things are good; new ones are bad" but then several things that happen seem to contradict that... so I'm just not really sure.

It's still an intriguing beginning to what looks to become an interesting series.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Jo Fletcher Books for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinion is solely my own.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,028 reviews2,605 followers
November 9, 2013
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/201...

So, on my ongoing quest to read more original and offbeat Young Adult titles, my journey has led me to The City's Son by Tom Pollock. I'd heard great things about this book, along with some descriptions of it that are just way in the realm of the bizarre and uncanny. In other words, it sounded right up my alley.

The novel follows Beth Bradley, a young graffiti artist seeking escape after being sold out by her best friend in an incident that suspends her from school. Her father hasn't been the same ever since Beth's mother died, and hardly even notices what goes on in her life anymore. But just when you think this will be yet another story about an angsty teenager running away from her troubles, this book turns everything on its head.

The fun begins when Beth meets up with the mysterious "Urchin", the cocky pavement-slate-skinned boy who introduces himself as Filius Viae, prince of London's streets and the city's son -- for he claims that the goddess of the city is his mother. What follows next is pure wildness as a whole new world is opened to Beth, one filled with living statues, voice-stealing spiders that crawl along telephone wires, runaway railwraith trains, and beings that live inside streetlamps. As rumors surrounding the goddess' impending return continue to mount, Beth helps Filius rally the troops against Reach, the urban god of decay who is preparing his own return to the city in order to see her new friend dead.

The result of this is a novel that's gritty yet sometimes beautiful, with ideas in here ranging from pure whimsical to just downright terrifying. It's also, to put it mildly, all very strange. At the end of the book, Tom Pollock acknowledges authors like Neil Gaiman and China Mieville as influences, and I can absolutely see that here. Consider Gutterglass, Filius' caretaker who has raised him in his goddess mother's absensce, who sometimes manifests as a pile of city garbage, with egg shells for eyes or discarded pens for fingers, all held together by dirt, bugs and worms. Like I said, whimsical and terrifying.

In the past year, I've read several books that feature the setting so strongly that they may as well have been love letters to their respective cities. But still, there's bringing your city to life and then there's bringing your city to life. Sometimes the world-building is done so well and described so richly that the setting ends up becoming like a character in and of itself, but this book takes personification of urban features to a whole new level. Tom Pollock presents London in a way that will completely blow your mind. I read things in this book I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams. Just the sheer amount of creativity at work here is astounding; I have never read a book like The City's Son.

If anything, the world was so fantastically well done that it ended up taking center stage in my mind, making the characters pale in comparison. Don't get me wrong, both Beth and Fil were great, but they almost felt like the supporting cast in light of my love for this incredible re-imagined version of London. I enjoyed the characters immensely but still didn't feel much for their relationship whenever they were together despite their witty dialogue and banter, because ultimately it was the city along with its many strange denizens that made this book so great in my eyes.

The City's Son was exactly the kind of book I was looking for -- a unique and unconventional YA novel that made me see things in a whole different light. Interestingly, this was also my first experience with a Young Adult title from Jo Fletcher books, and based on their penchant for publishing novels with innovative and just plain cool ideas, I'm honestly not surprised that I enjoyed this as much as I did.
Profile Image for Maja Ingrid.
448 reviews131 followers
May 25, 2020
3.5 stars

This one has been compared to Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I certainly thought it sounded a little like Neverwhere and A Madness of Angels when I first found this book. But really the only common thing either of these have with each other is that they are set in a more “underground” kind of magical London. Don’t expect Neverwhere going into this. If you do, you’re up for some disappointment (I mean, nothing will ever be just like Neverwhere so).

Let’s begin with what I liked. The worldbuilding. The world Beth and Filius brings the reader into is dark, gritty and bit brutal. But also very beautiful. Some stuff is even borderlining silly, like trainwraiths/bahngheists (or ghost trains) that are fighting. Imagine snakes fighting but change the snakes to subway trains. But there are also more darker stuff like spiders feeding off of peoples voices (in a literal way) or people who after they die, they are reborn inside stone statues, and sentient(?) barbed wire that possesses people. And there’s spirits living inside lamps that comes out to dance.

The book is mainly from Beth’s and Filius’s perspective. Mostly Beth’s though. And a little from a couple of other characters (Pen, Paul and a few others) which may or may not have been necessary. Filius’s parts are in first person present tense, while Beth’s and all the others were in third person past tense. It was a little odd, but I thought it was to make Filius stand out, what with him being “the City’s Son”. Here’s an odd thing: I preferred his bits over everyone elses, and I hate first person present tense. I enjoyed his perspective and view on London and the way his parts were written felt more lyrical. Really wished he got more page time from his own perspective. The perspectives doesn’t swap chapterwise, but several times in a chapter, which is a pet peeve of mine. But the swaps are clean with spaces between paragraphs. Victor might not have been the most important character either and I don’t think he actually had his own PoV, but that Russian bloke was still one of my favourite characters.

There was also bit of a romance building between Beth and Filius that I could do without. But I wasn’t surprised it was there and kind of expected it to be one even before I started this book.

Something that really bothered me was how off-handedly Pen’s story line was dealt with. Poor girl is victim of her predatory and bullying teacher. Beth tries to help her with the situation, but only manage to make it worse and when that teacher threatens Pen, she tells him what Beth did because she’s fucking terrified him him, and Beth has the gall to be mad at her??????? I’m sorry, but Beth brought a possible expulsion and CPS and running away from home down on herself and Pen only wanted to protect herself. YOU DON’T PROTECT YOUR FRIEND BY MAKING UGLY GRAFFITI ART ON HER PREDATORY TEACHER, BETH. And it was so off-handedly dealt with at the end. It was a paragraph at the end of the book of Pen mentioning the clothes she hid and deciding to make a phone call to the police. Second book better deal with this more. Other than that Pen mostly served as a plot device to spur Beth on . But the second book will focus lot on Pen so lot of the trauma she suffered in this book will hopefully be dealt with there.

(And let’s not talk about how unnecessary Paul’s (Beth’s dad) story line was. It filled no real purpose other than drag him out of a years long melancholy. I also found it odd how both Pen and Paul was so sure that Beth was looking for Filius just by looking at the drawing she made of him. And the plotline with Beth’s railwraith was way too small).

I'm also kinda torn about the ending? (not counting Pen's ending into it) I liked most of it, but a few stuff I disliked. Gonna have to let my thoughts on it simmer for a while.

- - -

This sounds like Neverwhere and also a little like A Madness of Angels, both books that I very much enjoyed.

So of course I'm adding it to my tbr
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,165 followers
March 24, 2013
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.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Tim.
3 reviews9 followers
August 3, 2012
4.5 out of 5

Firstly, I'd like to do a little backpedaling. To the people who have only given this book a 1 Star or a 'Didn't Finish' because it was either "too difficult" or "there was too much going on" - you are morons and I can only surmise that the writing was at a level of intelligence beyond your comprehension.

This is an intelligent YA book, oozing with charisma, beautifully detailed and not totally fixated on a vapid, predictable love triangle. You only have to watch the author interview video to see that this is a guy who has a fantastic command of the English language and has, quite romantically, portrayed the heart and soul of London through a brief window of his own imagining.

A London that is inhabited by a strange boy with concrete skin as he battles against Reach, demolition god and personification of London's greed, to keep his mother's throne safe. With help from streetwise graffiti artist Beth and a cast of magical misfits - such as mechanical spiders who feast on human voices, priests entombed inside statues waiting for (and fearing) their deity's return, an army of fearsome feline generals, and women made of light itself - he finally has to face the legacy his mother left him.

This is one of those books that I didn't want to end and that rarely happens. I found myself coming to the last 50 pages and deliberately finding distractions because I didn't want to finish it knowing I had a whole year to wait for the second one. Actually considering re-reading it again soon.

Having sung the praises of THE CITY'S SON, there are a few things that dropped the rating (and a few people have picked up on this too):

- willingness of the characters to accept the unusual without any turmoil. It's a little like "Here's something that completely blows your interpretation of the world as you know it" and the reply is "Huh. Ok. How can I help?" Whilst I know this is a modern book and the kind of characters are ones that probably would more willing to accept the unusual or at least be ambivalent, it felt a little too easy at times.

- Occasionally the language would repeat itself, particularly in the way a character spoke or acted. It would just reuse the same word, rather than a descriptive modifier or a synonym. But that's common in a lot of YA, so it's no biggy.

This isn't a perfect book, but the imagination is wonderful. I actually finished it whilst sitting within the shadow of a construction site just off from Oxford Street in London and you can't help but look sideways at the malignant cranes or resist peeping over fences in the hope of seeing dancing glass women flashing in amber exuberance.

You care about the characters, the sacrifices are real, the humour has you laughing out-loud whilst the tragedies have you teary-eyed. The heroes are not safe, the villains are not a nameless, faceless evil. It portrays life in the world's greatest city in all its shades of grey.

A great book and nicely set up for a sequel whilst also sitting fine as a standalone.
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,695 reviews874 followers
May 26, 2019
Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!

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.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,984 followers
September 4, 2012
Urban Fantasy is a genre defined by setting and the very excellent The City’s Son is a prime example of it: in it, London comes to life and is a character as much as its protagonists. The City has its own arc and its tale interconnects with those of the other characters in both obvious and subtle ways.

The great City of London is at the brink of destruction as an old threat surfaces from the ashes and is building itself up. Reach, the King of Cranes is a God of demolition: be gone old masonry buildings, give way to the growth of new, shiny monsters of glass. Aided by the unstoppable, manic, Mistress of the Wire, there seems to be nothing that can stop Reach. Your prayers for help will not be answered either: not when Mater Viae , the old Lady of the Streets, the Goddess of London has been gone for such a long time.

Filius Viae, her only son, the cocksure Crown Prince whose sweat and blood are as grey as the City itself and whose strength comes from its pavements is all that stands now between Reach and the City. Reach is coming for you and your City, Filius: are you ready for it?

No, he would tell you. He wants to run as fast as he can away from Reach. He would tell you that his own death lies at the end of this dangerous path.

Enter Beth Bradley, teenage graffiti artist, a regular human, oblivious to this hidden London. She stumbles one night into a lonely escapee ghost train and is introduced to a world she never thought possible. Beth stands at a very vulnerable crossroads in her life: her best friend Pen just betrayed her horribly and she has been expelled from school as a direct result; her father ignores her completely, retreated into a world of his own since her mother’s death a few years ago.

This vulnerability and loneliness coupled with her usual recklessness and impulsivity lead her to join forces with Filius – perhaps too soon, perhaps too suddenly. It is of course, a bit jarring this immediate, abrupt connection to Filius and his cause. But Beth loves this city. She might not know it the same way Fil does, but she has explored its nooks and crannies. She has marked them with her art – London is as much hers and it is Fil’s. And so is the responsibility to save it. So yes, she steps up: for there is real motivation here – both in terms of the real threat to her city but also the dismantlement of her emotional connection to the London she knows. She has nothing to lose and much to gain. There is no going back though, Beth, are you SURE you are prepared for it?

They share the narrative, these two characters – one has known this City all his life. The other is only but starting to get to know it and she is the perfect guide for the reader’s own discovery of this London. There is awe but very little shock when she encounters these marvels (people made of glass and light; an entire army of entombed priests with their real flesh horribly trapped inside stone and marble).

A quick aside. This is probably my only real criticism here: that Beth takes the discovery of this hidden world so easily and with a low amount of “wtf” – this didn’t come across as completely realistic in terms of character reaction.

That said, it is through her eyes that we connect the dots – and it is through her viewpoint (which doesn’t come with the heavy history that Fil’s does) , that any questioning is possible. Because there is questioning to be done: is this dichotomy between the old and the new, between the Lady of the Streets and Reach a real dichotomy at all? Is there such a thing as a good guy and a bad guy in this story?

As such, there is a strong element of unreliability here as well. Neither Fil nor Beth are completely aware of what is going here in reality – Fil might think he knows what’s happening but does he really? Consider how he is Beth’s guide through this story: does she have all the information she needs? The extent of it all is only made plain at the end of the novel when the whole thing comes together beautifully, full circle.

In the midst of it all: relationships. There is romance, as bittersweet as they come. There are all sorts of parental-filial relationships and one of them is especially awesome: a father who looks for his daughter and in the process finally gets to truly know her.

Central stage though – at least for me – is the relationship between Beth and her best friend Pen. I left this to the very end because it is absolutely the best thing about The City’s Son. Beth and Fil might be the main characters and Pen might get a secondary spotlight but her arc is the most gut-wrenching, the most engaging of them all. From the unspoken secret of sexual abuse (dealt with by the author with care) to the courage that she shows when defending her best friend as well as her own city – there is so much loyalty here between the two girls and it’s just a beautiful thing to behold. Pen’s storyline really put my heart through the wringer and I loved the resolution of her arc.

There is a lot to digest here – and I have been less than systematic in my appreciation for this brilliant UF story. There are so many different threads to follow: the City’s arc, with its rich, vivid history. Fil’s arc and the build up of tension as he accepts the role as the City’s Son. There are battles in a war and an army that needs to be put together. And all the awesome characters with their bravery, their loyalty, they willingness to sacrifice. I suspect subsequent re-reads will unveil much more.

If it’s not clear: I loved the The City’s Son and it’s a favourite read of 2012.
Profile Image for Crystal.
449 reviews91 followers
August 30, 2012
Rating 2.5

Having been completely taken aback and confused by this storyline, that didn’t stop The City’s Son from still creeping me out. All I have to say is “What just happened!?!” As far as the creep-factor, I can't quite put my finger on why I felt this way. I do know I was thoroughly confused and perplexed for most of the book, you’ll see why later. However, I have no doubt that the next installments are going to involve an epic showdown. But unfortunately, since this book wasn’t quite for me, I’ll have to rely on other steampunk fan reviews to see how this all plays out. The journey stops here for me and let me explain why.

Seeing as I have no clue what really happened in this book, my summary is going to be very short. There are two characters Fil and Beth who meet by chance and both needing help in different ways. They team up together to stop Reach from taking the city. See quite simple, but the story is so so far from that. You have weird spider thingies, and glass bulb thingies, and a person that has to recreate themselves from garbage everyday and that is just what you learn in the first few pages. My brain hurt from trying to decipher what was what in this highly detailed steampunkish novel. I can usually stretch my imagination pretty far but I just couldn't grasp what was going on. I can't say that I didn't like this because it did capture my attention, but what I liked got so jumbled up with all the detailing of the world that I lost it. I think the overall story is a good one, with Fil trying to recapture his city before his tyrant of a mother returns to invoke her wrath upon all who betrayed her. See sounds good right?? I enjoyed Beth's side of the story also. She had to grow up very early when her Dad checked out on her after her mothers death and she shows a lot of strength while standing by Fil's side. I just again couldn't focus on her because of all the craziness.

My low rating is not because The City's Son is a bad read it is because it just didn't work for me. I think this book requires a certain type of mindset and I don't think my imagination can be stretched that far. So if you are looking for a very unique world this is the book for you. I think the world here is very amazing and beautiful so please give it a shot and if you do read it please let me know what exactly those spider thingies look like!
Profile Image for Anjali.
404 reviews72 followers
August 30, 2012
2.5 Stars

I've waited writing my review for this one because I've been trying to figure out what exactly it was that made me not really care for it and even now I'm still not sure, which is nerve wrecking because I always have a list of reasons why I did or did not enjoy a book.

The book itself is a YA Urban Fantasy and the synopsis sounded like something I would enjoy, it's about Fil and Beth. Beth is a sixteen year old girl who paints all of London with her street art. She has a tough life at home and the only one she can rely on to keep her going is Pen her best friend but when she betrays her as well Beth leaves home and due to some seriously strange circumstances bumps into Filius the son of a goddess and from there is introduced to an alternate London in which she easily actually too easily accepts and throws herself into.

I am not going to lie Tom Pollocks ability to create a world where the city is alive literally is pretty damn brilliant. I mean you had railwraiths, girls who were made of electricity, then there was Gutterglass a creature that somehow is able recreate him/her self out of any and everything from maggots to eggshells and the list goes on. And those creatures aren't even half of what you will find in The City's Son.

What sucked was the fact that I didn't grasp and understand these creatures until about halfway into the novel. I was literally confused for the first half of the book if not more, there was no background on this alternate London we are just thrown into it. I did like Beth's character but she lost me somewhere in the middle, I was also a little annoyed with how easily she accepted this alternate London. The characters overall were okay no one that made me go WOW! I didn't dislike them nor did I love them. I also didn't really feel the connection between Fil or Beth and then the ending...I was not a fan of it.For the most part I felt like I was just going through the motions of reading. I really wanted to love this book but in the end it just wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Димитър Цолов.
Author 28 books271 followers
October 5, 2017
Хм, бях решил да прасна една доволна четворчица на тази книга, но краят ме разубеди - извъртя нещата по начин, който ми допадна и ще дам петица (На релси. По мое време, още имаше динозаври тогава, подобни оценки редовно се срещаха из класни и контролни работи, ся не знам :) ). Релсите са заради моментните превключвания към един претенциозен, да не река префърцунен стил, обострящ моята гастро-езифогеално рефлуксна болест - по научному ГЕРБ, по народному -киселини ). Да поясня: действието се водеше с редуването на две гледни точки - тази на изключената от даскало Бет Брадли в трето лице и тази на Филиус Вие, Синът на Града, от първо лице. Именно неговите тегави монолози (единственото хубаво нещо при тях беше, че са кратки - от по 2-3 стр.) убиваха темпото на повествованието и ми додейваха порядъчно, а пък тва сегашно историческо време съм свикнал да го срещам при наркоманските импресии на любимия Ървин Уелш или черните детективски истории на тоже любимия Реймънд Чандлър и никак не ми се връзва в ърбън фантасмагория ... (макар да виждам, че набира неистова популярност сред фентъзи авторите на запад, бляяяк!!!). По отношение на светоизграждането нямам никаква забележка - Градско фентъзи от класа! Един по-различен Лондон, скрит в другия, познатия ни - с оживели електрически крушки и лампи, строителни скелета и кранове; с образи, запечатали се във витрините на сградите и започнали самостоятелно съществуване; с одухотворената Градска Смет, с... Абе, шапка му свалих на автора!
Profile Image for ☕️Kimberly  (Caffeinated Reviewer).
3,031 reviews645 followers
September 8, 2012
I love urban fantasy and was excited by the synopsis for The City's Son. When I requested it, I had no idea of the treasure I found. This urban fantasy is bloody brilliant. Pollock took me on one heck of a ride through the streets of London along the Thames River and I am still in awe about how truly magnificent this tale was. Pollock is pure genius! He weaved a breathtaking fantasy, with spectacular characters and a plot that kept me riveted.

Beth Bradley runs away after her friend betrays her and her absentee Dad fails her. She takes to the modern day streets of London, where she encounters a street urchin named Filius and learns of a world living side by side with hers. She learns he is the crown prince of this mystical world and in danger. The god of urban decay known as Reach is returning to destroy them all. Beth decides to join forces with Filius and help him raise an army to reclaim his throne. The tale that unfolds is dark, gritty, brilliant, and breathtakingly beautiful. It is one of the best urban fantasies I have had the pleasure to read.

The characters Pollock has created are friggin amazing, unique and well fleshed-out. Beth has had a tough life, but she expresses herself through graffiti. Not tagging, but drawings; some angry, some beautiful and some filled with despair. She wants a place to belong, and the world Filius shows her draws her in. I loved Beth; she is strong, fearless, brave and compassionate. Filius is the abandoned son of a goddess who deserted him and her kingdom after banishing Reach. He is lonely and knows he needs to stop Reach. Beth draws out Filius and makes him a better leader. Filius was raised on the streets by Gutterglass his nanny. Gutterglass is made entirely of garbage and is constantly being reassembled by an army of ants, beetles and maggots. He has been taught morals and rules by the Pavement Priests who reside in the cemetery. These creatures live inside the statues. They have been cursed by the goddess and forced to dwell beneath the stone for eternity. I absolutely loved them; they reminded me of the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who. In battle they move with lightening speed. We meet Blankeits who dwell inside street lamps and dance in the streets. The Sodiumites live inside modern buildings and consider themselves to be noble. The Chemical Synod, are hooded creatures with blacken teeth and faces, who will help in return for a steep price. They are clever and must only be sought with caution. Victor a street bum adds depth to the tale. I loved this little dude, he was funny and aided Beth. Pen, is Beth’s best friend and the one who betrayed her. I liked Pen and understood where she was coming from. When Beth disappears she helps Beth’s Dad search for her and ends up being caught up in the battle. There are many other creatures living in London that we meet and I was blown away by Pollock's imagination.

Hands down one of the most amazing urban fantasy worlds I have ever visited. Pollock brought this town and its creatures to life with his pen. I became invested and so caught up in the saga that I consumed this with total disregard for the outside world. While the basic story-line is not original: Abandoned throne, prince who needs to step up, soldiers and countryman unsure if they trust this would-be-king and an enemy who will unite them all. The dark gritty story line made this tale brilliant. The creatures Pollack created are fabulous and his descriptions brought them to life. My emotions were on a roller-coaster ride as the author made me experience; loss, fear, betrayal, anger, laughter and hope. Lives are lost and the tale is at times dark and ugly. It is a time of war and the author brings it to us in all of its devastating glory. It is also bright and has a little romance, a reunion and gives hope. This combined with well fleshed out characters made this tale come to life. The author beautifully weaved details and back-history with twists and turns that had my jaw dropping, emotions running hot and kept me completely enthralled.

I highly recommend The City's Son to fans of urban fantasy and kick-ass world building. While dark and gritty it is also beautiful and engaging. I am foaming at the mouth for The Glass Republic book two in The Skyscrape Throne series. Pollock is an author whose books I would read without a recommendation based solely on his work in this novel.

I want to thank Flux for providing this ARC in exchange for my unbiased review. Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer
Profile Image for colleen the convivial curmudgeon.
1,155 reviews286 followers
October 1, 2015
I seem to keep pushing off writing this review, because I'm not sure I really know what to say. Overall, I just wish I liked it more than I did. I liked the ideas of the story - which reminded me heavily of the MAtthew Swift series by Kate Griffin. (I had some issues with that story, too, mainly it felt overwritten, but reading this made me want to get back to that series.)

In some ways, this book (these books?) excapsulate what, to me, urban fantasy should be - or, at least, what it can be - a story in which the urban landscape is, itself, alive and plays a crucial role in the magic of the story.

But I had two issues with this story:

1) I never really connected with the main characters. My two favorite characters were Pen and the homeless Russian guy, whose name I can't remember (but I'm terrible with names, so that's on me).

I found both Filius and Beth kind of annoying, and Beth was borderling Mary Sue for me because everything she touched was gold. I mean, she's new to this world, and Fil kept telling her to hang back and let him talk, but then he would mess everything up and she would swoop in and save the day, and it just got really repetitive and annoying. It kind of got the point where it was like, "Fil, we don't even need you here, man."

2) Worldbuilding.

And this number 2 was a doozy.

I'm not generally someone obsessed with worldbuilding. I like YA stories because a lot of times it just gives you enough worldbuilding to make sense of the world the story takes place in, but the focus is on the plot and the characters, and not necessarily on the world. I'm cool with that.

But I still like the world to make sense, and I couldn't get through more than a few pages in this story where I didn't go, "Wait, what? That doesn't make any sense? I mean... why? What now?"

Mostly this deals with Reach, the bad guy of the story.

Just... the world building didn't make a lot of sense, and things weren't really properly explained and it seems like things weren't really thought out very well, and I tried to let it go and just get into the story, but since I had the other problem of not really gelling with the characters and whatnot, I couldn't stop thinking about how much goddamned sense it didn't make.

So, yeah...

2 stars because I didn't hate it, despite the above, and I didn like some aspects of the story. I liked the *idea* of the story and characters like Gliterglas and if it was more thought through and better developed, it could've been a really good story.

Oh, and the ending was pretty cool, so there is that.

Now I'm debating about whether I want to continue the story. The next book seems to focus on Pen, who, as I said, was one of the better characters in the story. And it also focuses on the Mirror World, which is touched on but not really developed in this story, so it could be interesting. I don't know...

Profile Image for Andrea.
Author 25 books781 followers
June 19, 2012
Beth and Pen are the closest of friends. Beth is an artist and Pen a poet and together they cope with school and family issues, but they have a particular problem at the moment with a teacher who is repeatedly bullying Pen. Beth supports her friend through this as best she can, and indulges in a touch of late-night graffiti on the school grounds in revenge.

But this leads to a schism between the two friends and Beth's expulsion. She has no support at home (her father is in a deep many-year depression following the death of Beth's mother) and so she's primed to do anything, go anywhere. And then she meets a living train, and Filius.

Filius is "the city's son", child of a goddess who disappeared soon after he was born, apparently gone on a quest to make him strong enough to survive the long-running battle she's been waging with "Reach", the crane god (incarnation of greed/development/progress). Filius has been struggling to grow into his role during her absence, hoping she'll return before Reach completely takes over the city.

The story is a variety of urban fantasy, the best-known example being Gaiman's Neverwhere. Here electricity is transformed into bull-like rail-wraiths, lights dance in human form, spiders steal voices and statues pray to die. Violently introduced into this world, Beth is in just the right frame of mind to embrace Filius' cause as her own, offering herself up as the first recruit of the army he must muster against Reach, and buoying up his flagging courage.

The story follows Beth and Filius' efforts, and swaps back to Pen and Beth's father's search for the missing girl.

I never quite settled with this book. It's well written, though the gleeful descriptions of grot and maggots and horror elements never quite meshed with me. Beth and Filius are reasonably well drawn – two brash souls finding each other amidst violence and weirdness – but at the same time never caught my heart. Their efforts to recruit an army turned into a progression of "meet magickified element of city, struggle to recruit, survive dangers, meet magickified..." etc etc. Still, I didn't dislike them, and wanted to see how their war ended up (though I wondered why 90% of the city's magical things were horrible - the only real exceptions being the 'nice train' and the sentient lights, and also found the characterisation of 'progress' as evil to be somewhat arbitrary, particularly since the goddess' side didn't seem that admirable). As cities imbued with magical life stories go, this just seemed to not have the charm of other examples.

I was far more engaged with Pen, but at the same time I had a few big reservations with the progression of her story.

I didn't strongly dislike the story, but nor was I ultimately fully engaged by it. Not a series I'll be continuing with.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews989 followers
November 9, 2013
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.

So, in my recent book buying spree, one of the things I was specifically looking for was the next book in my quest for terrific Urban Fantasy – this one kept popping up and glaring at me so I took that as a sign that this was the one.

What a great choice that was. Phew. For this reader, there are two things that will ensure I love an Urban Fantasy tale – a world I want to see with my own two eyes and characters that I can fall in love with. The City’s Son had both of those things with bells on..

Beth is a graffiti artist, ignored by her grieving father and expelled from school after her best friend Pen caves to pressure, she is drifting..until an incident on the streets of London brings her into contact with Fil. Son of a Goddess, Prince of London, he is about to be embroiled in a battle with the evil Reach, King of the Cranes, for his life and his City. And so Beth finds a new purpose…and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

The world Mr Pollock has created here is weird, wonderful and entirely beautiful. Oh I wanted to dance with Elektra and her sisters, interact with the Pavement Priests, offer the spiders my voice and fight the good fight…the entire time I was immersed in Fil’s London I was drowning in the rich, often horrific, yet always entirely exotic surroundings. A city that lives and breathes, filled with bizarre and breathtaking characters who will steal your heart and touch your soul.

This author does not write from a place of safety and that makes this even more compelling – If you want a cheery tale where everyone lives happily ever after then this may not be for you – emotionally speaking it can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. There is love and loss, sadness and joy, fear and bravery all within the pages – and the ending left me slightly tearful and overwrought in the best reading way possible.

Alluring and elegant writing, intelligent and dexterous world building and passionate characterisation make this a must read for any Urban Fantasy fan. Indeed for any fan of great storytelling.

I leave you with some quotes…

“Our memories are like a city: we tear some structures down, and we use rubble of the old to raise up new ones. Some memories are bright glass, blindingly beautiful when they catch the sun, but then there are the darker days, when they reflect only the crumbling walls of their derelict neighbours. Some memories are buried under years of patient construction; their echoing halls may never again be seen or walked down, but still they are the foundations for everything that stands above them.”

“Glas told me once that that’s what people are, mostly: memories, the memories in their own heads, and the memories of them in other people’s. And if memories are like a city, and we are our memories, then we are like cities too. I’ve always taken comfort in that.”

Happy Reading Folks!
Profile Image for Otherwyrld.
570 reviews52 followers
July 26, 2014
How many times have I seen this story in the last few years, namely ordinary person stumbles into a magical other London and find themselves part of a struggle between these weird inhabitants and some other enemy? I can count at least half a dozen examples that I've read, and I was tempted to knock half a star off for having yet another London based fantasy story.

Of course, if the plot is not new, then the world building and characterisation need to make a book like this stand apart. Of the former, there are certainly a lot of interesting species described here, and I particularly liked the railwraith, which is the spirit of a tube train infused with the memories of all its passengers, and the people made of glass that inhabit light bulbs.

It is the characters that really stand out here - the main protagonist Beth is unusual for being both young, female and a graffiti artist, and her best friend Pen is not only all that but Muslim as well. Filius, the prince and titular character of this other London is also intriguing, as is his absent mother, the Goddess of London.

As to the plot, I really thought I knew where this one was going, but I ended up being almost totally wrong, and the story was all the better for it. Of all the other books that tell the same story, I can't remember any that .

The story has a lot to say about urban renewal and the way a city changes, and also there is quite a lot about love and forgiveness. Add to that a crazy Russian ex secret agent for the comic relief and you have a real winner. It's part 1 of a trilogy, so I will definitely be looking out for the next part.

4 1/2 stars
Profile Image for Maxine (Booklover Catlady).
1,305 reviews1,234 followers
Want to read
March 18, 2016
Super excited to read this but will wait until a bit closer to publication date. Sounds very familiar to Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman which is one of my favourite books of all time. I hope it's not a carbon copy however.
Profile Image for Siobhan.
4,490 reviews468 followers
July 31, 2016
I really wanted to give this one a higher rating, but in the end I couldn’t quite bring myself to round up to a four star rating. It wasn’t quite enough for such a thing to happen. It was a fun read yet my hopes had been higher.

To be honest, I think I went in expecting the wrong thing from this book. I found it in Poundland, which is often a case of hit and miss. Sometimes you find real gems hidden in Poundland – I mean, I found Laini Taylor the one time – and other times you find the kinds of books that leave you wanting to gouge your eyes out. I’d been hoping this one would fall into the first category, that it would be amazing. I wasn’t expecting the beauty of Laini Taylor (she’s one of my favourite authors, after all, so such a thing is hard to do) but I’d hoped for something great from an urban fantasy that sounded so fun.

I’ll start by saying it was a fun urban fantasy read. The world building was wonderful. We’re giving something different yet somewhat familiar. We’re given a supernatural underbelly of London that is filled with mysteries, with the fantasy aspects being brilliant. All the aspects were new. They were all interesting. We’re given railway wraiths, bodies trapped in stone, electrical creatures of light, deities of the city, and then some. Okay, so not all of the aspects were new – but most were. If nothing else, the way they were mixed together was wonderful.

Despite how great this world building was, I found myself wanting more. Not in terms of what we were given – the way in which they all added to the story was lots of fun – as we were given plenty. I wanted more by way of description. I found, as I progressed through the book, that the author was great at describing action. If anything, there was too much description at certain points of action. When it came to describing the new creations of the world… well, some felt lacking. They simply were. We’re given the most basics. Some really came alive, yet others I found difficult to really imagine in the way the author was intending as I felt as though I wasn’t quite given enough. To put it bluntly, I felt as though there was differing amounts of attention given to detailing depending upon what the author was focusing upon. I understand that some things need more attention that others, but I feel as though world building deserves equal attention to truly bring all the creatures to life.

Truthfully, I think that was part of my problem. I found it hard to really get into the book to begin with, as I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the way in which the story was being told. It took me much long to find myself fully embedded into the story than I had hoped for. Once I was into the story, and everything was moving forward, the story was great fun. However, it took much longer for me to read that point than I had hoped for.

Overall, it was a fun story. It was a nice introduction to the series, and things could go to interesting places in the future books, but I’m not sure whether I’ll continue. There is potential enough for me to consider the books, yet I won’t be going out of my way to read them soon.
Profile Image for Kate (VerbVixen).
363 reviews
June 18, 2012
Friendship is man’s greatest good. It’s a sentiment from time immemorial or at least back to Socrates. And most wondrous strange, The City’s Son feels like an old friend already. Though it is completely new and wholly unique, it sings the song of old human truths—of friendship and love, sacrifice and bravery, of fear and loss. It is the type of book that has you holding your breath to the very last page, and upon coming to that end your exhalation brings painful, blissful relief. The plot reminds me of an epic saga though I suppose stories of war and friendship when done right should remind one of the rage of Achilles, the friendships of The Shire, the love of Odysseus, the bravery of the kings and queens of Narnia, and the dangers of Mordor. It is impossible not to love and cheer for Fil, Beth and Pen. It is impossible not to fight with them, cheer them in their triumphs and cradle them in their fragility. Even the parental element was well done, which is so rare in YA these days.

Pollock writes as though he were the boy with the city in his skin. He gets it—the allure of iron and concrete and towers that reach to kiss the heavens. He sees the magic they hold. For a long time I’ve held that each city has it’s own pulse-a heartbeat you can hear if you’re listening for it. New York’s is the fluttering beat of hummingbird wings more of a constant buzz then a drumbeat. New Orleans sounds more like the slow, lazy upward tilt of a jazz song (I always think of Datri Bean’s “Slow Down Summertime” when I’m there). I’m convinced Pollock can hear the city’s pulse too, and what is more he can help others hear it.

The prose is practically poetry all at once both searing and subtle. It resonates to the core of universal truths and expresses what before had been ineffable with such stunning grace it honestly stole my breath. On nearly every page was a phrase that needed underlining; a glimpse into brilliance itself. I can’t quote everything because it would ruin the loveliness for you when you experience it the first time but I will say these pages I’ve dog-eared and underlined in my book: 53, 124, 129, 182, 188, 193, 261, 276, 334, 380, 398. And those are just the dog-eared pages, forget about the ones where I annotated the margins.

At the end what matters is this: the story, the characters, the writing are exceptional and far exceeded any expectations I had. To say The City’s Son is a must read doesn’t even do justice to the book; it is a read that conveys what it is to be human and more so what it is to be human in this awe-full world of cities. Can you say PRE-ORDER?

Overall: A++ (Yes two pluses are necessary)

P.S. Thank God there are two more books coming.

P.P.S. I actually edited out whole paragraphs of this review so you can thank me for that but honestly there is so much I want to talk about with this book. So please read it and ask me so we can talk about it, dammit.
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,397 reviews241 followers
July 12, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
635 reviews29 followers
August 11, 2013
In the black and white reactions to fantasy, I come down here on the dark side of just not buying it.

A hidden living mechanical aspect to London in which a boy holds dominion over a variety of urban creatures that serve him, loyal to his absent Mater Viae, mother of the streets: streetlamps and an adviser newly created each day of prime trash and malevolent spectral locomotives. Filius faces a challenge from Reach, another power player in the shadow world of the City, and he meets a girl called Beth, tied to the streets through graffiti art and fleeing a dismal school and home life in her forays to a part of London she should be able to see and fear, but can and does.

A friend and sister-reader I much respect and admire loved this book, but when I found myself about nine chapters in not even inches deep in the world that so clearly enveloped her nicely, I decided to put it down.

Should I even rate books I don't finish? Perhaps not, as I didn't see it through any slow start or bumpy bits; but perhaps so, because a one or two-star rating helps other potential readers see that opinion is divided.
Profile Image for Jessica.
371 reviews35 followers
November 26, 2016
This is young adult urban fantasy. It is set in a magical London. Sound familiar? It should, this has been done many times. What makes this worth the read is Pollack's ability to be so descriptive that it creeps you out. Like a lot of other reviewers the voice stealing, telephone wire walking spiders will stick with me for a while. So will the mirror dwellers. This city literally is alive.

For fans of Gaiman.
Profile Image for Tori.
215 reviews4 followers
November 14, 2020
i thought i would like this bc i kept seeing it everywhere but fuck it was weird
think i only got through a couple of chapters, enough for the two main characters to meet, witness a train fight(????), and one of them have a conversation with spirits who live in light bulbs (?????)
i LOVE fantasy, i swear, but this was just too weird and hard to believe/understand also i just didn't care about the characters at all
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews546 followers
December 28, 2012
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: This novel puts the URBAN in fantasy, with the magic found in the oil and asphalt and metal that make London, pulling the reader in with developing characters and high stakes, even if the plot runs thin in places.

Opening Sentence: I��m hunting.

The Review:

Beth Bradley is a talented tagger. Her work stains the walls of London in everything from paint to chalk—her most recent work the portrait of a certain teacher at her school. It isn’t a flattering interpretation. The caricature makes it clear Beth’s lonely world is about to get smaller, when her best friend sells her out and the school threatens to call Social Services. Her father, catatonic since the death of her mother, can’t motivate himself to help her, so Beth takes to the streets she knows like the back of her hand. Only, when she runs into an street urchin with skin like cement, she learns fast that the streets she knew so well, she didn’t know at all.

London is alive. Not just the humans, but the bricks in the walls and the scaffolds on the skyscrapers. As Pollock throws Beth and the reader into this fantastical and intensely imaginative world, London becomes a much darker place. There are dangers lurking everywhere—your very reflection in the mirror or the spiders that eat voices—brought chills to my skin the same way a horror novel does. The author doesn’t let you feel safe even when the characters are, sinking you into a treacherous world where everything familiar turns alien.

Filius, our street urchin, is actually the Son of the Streets (among other, epic titles). His mother is the Goddess Viae. She’s worshipped by this fantastical London underworld and yet mysteriously absent. Reach, the Crane King threatening the city, is growing more powerful every day. It took the Great Fire to destroy Reach last time around—and it took most of London with it. As Fil and Beth try to raise the Goddess’s army for war, they begin to find strength in each other. Reach has set his sights on Fil, making time short as they wait for their deity to strike.

I loved the intense fantasy of The City’s Son. It’s overwhelming for the first few pages, because the author assumes you’ll pick it up as you go, but eventually I just slid into the world. I spent a lot of time wondering how the bloody hell Pollock came up with some of this stuff—I will never look at phone lines the same way again—and even more shivering from the creepy suspense of it. This world has painted the color of asphalt in broad strokes, taking the reader completely out of London and into a whole new underworld. This novel is an urban fantasy with all the emphasis on the urban part. Seriously.

The writing is where I knocked off points. The story gets really confusing with it’s multiple points-of-view. Filius, our petrol-sweating demigod, is written in first person. Everyone else is written in third. The perspectives jump with no rhyme or rhythm, more than half of the time without a page break to let you know. It’s the only part (besides my terror of telephone-arachnids) where I was torn from the story. This novel definitely gets my recommendation, especially if you’ve been looking for a new kind of fantasy to dive into.

Notable Scene:

“How in Thames’—? ” The thought tailed away. It didn’t sound like her; it sounded like him.

An image struck her: rain pouring over the city, water flooding down sewers, through gutters, seeping through the earth, teasing up tiny particles of London and carrying them here.

Liquid chaos, and other more exotic ingredients.

Here, into her.

The heat of the fire forced droplets of sweat from her and she felt them clinging to her skin, insulating her from the heat. A petrol tang touched her lips.

She remembered Fil putting his hand on the streetlamp girl’s arm. The heat should have been agonising, but he’d shown no sign of pain.

She kicked towards the flames.

FTC Advisory: Flux provided me with a copy of The City’s Son. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Leontiy [princeofbookandbone].
245 reviews24 followers
September 5, 2012
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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