The City’s Son

The City's Son

The City’s Son was written by Tom Pollock and first published in 2012. It is an urban fantasy story that explores a world of fantastical creatures hidden within the streets of London. The novel forms the first part of The Skyscraper Throne series and is followed by The Glass Republic (2013) and Our Lady of the Streets (2014).

Beth Bradley is no stranger to being in trouble but this time she has taken things a little too far. Her best friend, Pen, has betrayed her and she’s found herself expelled from school. Not that her father especially cares. He retreated into himself after her mother’s death and no longer pays any attention to anything that his daughter does.

Escaping to her private place, Beth tries to think of what she can do next. However, the answer soon comes to her in the form of a spectral train. Beth doesn’t understand why the Railwraith appears before her but she decides to accept its invitation to ride. Unfortunately her adventure doesn’t last long. When her Railwraith is attacked by a larger train, she is rescued by a mysterious boy with skin the colour of the pavement.

Filius Viae is the Crown Prince of London. He’s the only child of the Lady of the Streets – the Goddess who created London – and has been trying his hardest to rule over it in the years since her disappearance. His mother’s greatest enemy – Reach, the Crane King – has been growing in strength and now Fil needs that he needs to rally and army and take him down. Although he is close to giving up, Beth’s confidence and bravery rekindle his own. Working together, perhaps there is a chance to destroy Reach before he rebuilds London in his own image.

From time to time, every reader comes across that truly affects them, one that just speaks to them on some kind of subconscious level and moves them more than they could have thought possible. I’m pleased to say that, for me, The City’s Son is one of those books. It’s gorgeously written, beautiful and lyrical, uplifting and heart-breaking in equal measure. I don’t think I’ve found a fantasy story so emotionally exhausting since Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

You may have noticed by now that I’m a sucker for faerie stories. That’s exactly what this is. Pollock’s London is populated entirely by the spirits of a technological age. Streetlights are split into two warring factions (the amber Sodiumites and the white Blankleits), ghostly railwraiths haunt the Underground and fiberglass spiders scuttle along telephone wires as they feed on voices. As a piece of imaginative fiction, it’s simply jaw dropping. The world that Pollock creates is utterly fantastical and yet feels so real. London is such a magical city that it is very easy to imagine it as a living, breathing organism.

The City’s Son is one of those novels that really make you look at the world in a different light. I did feel as though it initially threw the reader in at the deep end as Fil’s early chapters contain very little by way of exposition. While this is a little daunting at first, the world is easy to understand and is quick to immerse the reader. The battle between the Lady of the Streets and Reach subtly comments on the dangers of rapid expansion, as Reach’s towers of glass and metal (testament to his vanity) are erected on the bones of old London.

The story is not a light read in any way. I burned through it at breakneck speed because I got really invested in the story line but this is definitely not the novel for you if you dislike threat, violence and gore. While the story does contain some humorous dialogue (particularly as Fil and Beth try to recruit various factions), it is dark and violent and very bleak in places. Danger lurks in every corner of Pollock’s London and good characters regularly meet with tragedy. Deals are made in the shadows and the stakes are often horrifyingly high. If you prefer happily-ever-after stories, this isn’t one for you. You will come to love characters only for them to meet fates that are worse than death.

Yet the novel is still incredibly addictive. It’s plot is a nest of twists and turns, all of which are foreshadowed from very early on. I can safely say this in hindsight as some of the hints were so subtle that I didn’t even notice them. These are my favourite kind of twists. I’m not really one for surprises that come from nowhere. I love it when you can look back at a book and realise that everything was set in place from page one. The novel also ended very well, making the book a complete story in its own right which is always better than being left feeling as though you’re being blackmailed into buying the rest of the trilogy.

The characters are vibrant and incredibly likable. The novel has a vibrant supporting cast including a Protean organism made from bits of rubbish, an army of “priests” encased in bronze and stone and a homeless Russian man who is capable of communicating with streetlamps through Morse code. It’s certainly not bunch that are quickly forgotten.

Yet it’s the primary cast that really stands out. Beth is a truly empowered heroine. She goes from strength to strength within the story, avoiding all the usual pitfalls that plague female protagonists and never becoming a Mary-Sue. No matter what happens to Beth, Pollock keeps her well-grounded and relatable through her doubt and humanity. If I was to criticise something, it would be the fact that she’s very quick to trust Fil. She really does just abandon her mundane life for one of endless danger without even taking a moment to stop and think about this. While it was a little jarring, I must admit that it was a relief. It was nice to see a character who was so sure of what she wanted right from the beginning. Beth is definitely one of my favourite young adult protagonists ever.

However, I would have liked to have seen more of her relationship with Fil developing. They just kind of fall in love off-page. While Fil is tremendously likable, I never really got much of an impression of any romance growing between them. It was a bit like there was no relationship one moment and deep love the next. I felt that the relationship between Beth and her Dad was handled a lot better as this does slowly change over the course of the story as her Dad gradually learns more about her through her art.

However, it’s Pen that is truly the most memorable character in the story. While I’m of two minds about certain aspects of her backstory (one “encounter” that she has with a teacher serves little purpose other than to shock the reader). Pen’s story arc was one of the hardest things to read in the story as what happens to her is truly horrific yet it is still bittersweet in the end. I won’t spoil it for you here but I really do like the direction that Pollock has taken her development. It just really feels like the start of a journey for her. This, above anything else, is the thing that I’m most curious to see continuing into the next book.

In conclusion, The City’s Son is an amazing novel and is certainly one that I would recommend. It’s beautifully written, enthralling and contains some amazingly strong female characters. This novel is certainly the best one that I’ve reviewed on this blog in a long time and I really can’t wait to see how the story continues in The Glass Republic.

Oh yeah, in case you’re interested, the dragon pictured with Sobek is called Ascalon and is part of Norwich’s GoGoDragons 2015 charity event. The eighty-four dragons will remain in the city until 5th September and so you really should visit them if you live nearby. You can learn more on their website –

The City’s Son can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Sobeks – Part 3 | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: The Beneath | Arkham Reviews
  3. Trackback: The Glass Republic | Arkham Reviews
  4. Trackback: Our Lady of the Streets | Arkham Reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog Stats

  • 104,111 awesome people have visited this blog
%d bloggers like this: