Saturday, March 16, 2013

The City's Son by Tom Pollock: Book Review

The City's Son (Book 1: Skyscraper Throne )
Author: Tom Pollock
Publisher: Flux, 2012
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Ages: 15 up, Young Adult fiction
Pages: 460

London is like any city of old, with its crumbling buildings and lost memories, buried in the wake of skyscrapers and change. But what if vintage lampposts, graveyard statues, junkyard rubble and its homeless remnants could speak? Would they fight back against the skyscraper realm? This is the centuries-old, magical underworld that Tom Pollock creates in his debut urban fantasy novel, The City’s Son. Beth Bradley, a high school student at Frostfield High, wanders into this monster-filled world accidentally, but the "real" world she leaves behind is no less monstrous. At home, her zombie-like father has been a mental basket case, catatonic ever since Beth’s mother died. Beth spends a lot time on the streets drawing graffiti and getting into trouble at school as a result. Beth's only real support is Pen, her Pakistani best friend. Pen, too, deals with "real" life monsters. A math teacher at school has abused her and she is under his control. The friendship splinters when Beth mistakenly believes that Pen has betrayed her in a school incident. Beth leaves home for good and meets Filius, the fifteen-year-old crown prince of the underworld. Beth finds a home never before imagined, complete with talking statues, pylon spiders, a junkyard character named Gutterglass, and other strange characters. A relationship develops between Filius and Beth as they pull together forces to battle Reach, a powerful monster who threatens to destroy the city. Meanwhile, Pen sets out to find Beth, along with Beth’s father, who has finally come to his senses. Pen is then captured by the Wire Mistress, Reach’s priestess, and her body is taken over. Mr. Bradley must persevere alone and find a way to help his daughter, while Beth is forced to fight her best friend in the final battle. The City’s Son is well-written, gritty and thought-provoking. Readers are advised of violence, language, and sexual content.

I have never read urban fantasy before. I was asked to review this book and said, "Okay," and to be honest, it took one hundred pages before I was fully vested in the story. This is the point where Pen decides to look for Beth. Symbolism and metaphors abound in The City's Son and it is what Pollock does with Pen that I found so convincingly developed. That Pen goes from being dominated by a horrid teacher in the real world to being controlled by the Wire Mistress in the fantasy world is no small coincidence. I won't spoil what happens there, except to say it worked for  me. Mr. Bradley's development, on the other hand, came up short. Perhaps Pollock intends to develop him in the sequel, but I found it dissatisfying that more didn't happen between Beth and her 'dead to the world' father, who has experienced some kind of transformation and returned to help her. What happened there? It is a subplot, but an important one.

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl


  1. Wow, you made this sound REALLY, really good.

  2. I'll add THE CITY'S SON to my To Read List!

  3. Cathy and Kim - Thanks for your comments! It is always nice to know someone actually reads these reviews :)


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