I’m in love with Tom Pollock’s imagination, there I said it. His hidden version of London is just wonderful. The City’s Son is a YA book (though only just) that asks you to totally shrug off reality. You’d best check it at the door along with your ideas about the London you already know, because in Pollock’s London nothing is normal. The lights contain women with fibreoptic veins that dance to produce the light that our capital bathes in. The Scaffolding and cranes take on a sinister feel as Pollock transforms them into the wondrous. The statues contain people paying for their sins to their Goddess. And his London is ruled by a boy whose skin is concrete and whose blood is petrol.
The story sees Beth a young tearaway who is on the road to self destruction one night run from her home and climb aboard a ghostly train. This Railwraith takes her into the hidden world where she meets Filius Viae as he battles a freight train with his trusty iron railing. [I know, bonkers]. Through their meeting we discover that the King of the cranes – Reach – is being born again to wage war on London and raise more glass towers from the ground. Of course, this opens up an environmental idea that runs underneath the main plot.
Beth soon joins forces with Fil and they aim to take down Reach and his armies. On Twitter I described this book as having the imagination of China Mièville crossed with a modern day Narnia and I stand by it. Pollock’s ideas ooze with a believable charm that will keep you thinking for days afterwards. You’ll find yourself glancing at normal scenery and picturing the creatures and environments that inhabit the book.
The wonder of Tom’s work is that he isn’t afraid to paint a bleak picture. He constantly dangles the carrot of hope in front of the cast while they traverse a world of death, destruction and violence. He’s also not scared of putting the characters in stressful situations and explores how the teenage mind would cope. This is particularly highlighted in the plight of Pen, Beth’s best friend. Her story is filled with lots of sorrow and upset, as a character she definitely goes on the longest and hardest journey.
The biggest character of all is, of course, London itself. The City’s Son would be nothing without the vibrancy and life within the city. Of course here, the attention is on the darker side of the streets and what lives in the shadows but within those disturbing moments and reimagining, there is familiarity that pulls you further in.
I would love to break down more of the plot, but the discovery of such bizarre characters and plot twists is a treasure that I won’t take away. This is one of those books that you’ll discuss with gusto and enthuse over the peril within the pages.
It’s not without its humour and creative dialogue, either. The introduction of Victor a permanently drunk Russian who helps deliver many a punch line to add some layers of shade. Pollock uses much of today’s modern language without making the reader cringe and he’s very delicate with the lines drawn to make this a YA book.
I actually upped my score on Goodreads from 4 to 5 before writing this because as I sat and remembered many moments I felt the excitement and the adrenaline of the action sequences, the fights and the emotion. Watching Beth and Fil tear through the streets of London with spray cans and no cares is genuinely uplifting and when they stumble into warzones the scenes take on a cinematic effect.
The City’s Son is staggeringly good and I can’t wait to see where Tom Pollock takes the series in the second part of the trilogy. If you enjoy escaping reality and riding through someone’s often bizarre imagination, then this is the read for you.
P.S. Beware the Wire.
Published by Jo Fletcher Books. This book was kindly sent by the publisher for review.