Our Lady of the Streets

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

The City’s Son | The Glass Republic

Our Lady of the Streets was written by Tom Pollock and first published in 2014. It forms the final instalment of The Skyscraper Throne Trilogy and is preceded by The City’s Son (2012) and The Glass Republic (2013). As the novel picks up on the cliff-hanger ending of the previous instalment, I would definitely recommend reading the novels in sequence if you want to have any idea of what is going on.

Everything went to Hell on the day that Mater Viae’s double dragged herself from London-Under-Glass. As she reclaimed her throne on top of Canary Wharf, the very streets began to sicken. Pavements seared, incinerating anyone unlucky enough to stand on them, and London was sealed off from the outside world. Those unlucky enough to be trapped there are easy prey for the cruel goddess’s masonry men.

Tied to the city, Beth soon realises that she is dying. Every time that she feeds, she absorbs more of Mater Viae’s corruption. Now, her body burns with fever and she struggles to perform even the simplest of tasks. She knows that if she can’t find a way to defeat Mater Viae soon, she will certainly die. However, she only has a fraction of the army that she had when she defeated Lord Reach and the enemy this time is so much more powerful.

Pen knows that she needs to do everything that she can to save her friend, even if it means facing the demons of her past. However, when she finally learns the true horror of Mater Viae’s plan, she realises that even this will not be enough. In order to stand a chance to defeat the Goddess of London, they will need the help of their oldest and most powerful of enemies. And such forces cannot be easily controlled…

I must admit that writing this post made me a little sad. I have reviewed a lot of novels on this blog now, and The Skyscraper Throne series contains some of the best world-building that I have ever seen. I never wanted to reach the point where I had to say good-bye to Tom Pollock’s London. It truly is a masterpiece – a city presented as an organic whole. Really, it’s one of those ideas that you kick yourself for not having thought up. Yet, in Our Lady of the Streets, Pollock’s London takes a whole new feel.

In this novel, London’s secret underside has bled into the real world. Now, everyone knows about its terrible magic. Dragons made of sewer gases patrol the skies, entire streets become brick serpents and tarmac traps people like quicksand. The whole city has become a surrealist Hell, yet the book is still a modern fable that really does capture the magic of London. This is now especially apparent within Beth, who has evolved into a macrocosm of city itself – a city made flesh. And its beautiful.

Yet, as much as I do adore the setting, I unfortunately felt that the plot of Our Lady of the Streets was a lot weaker than that of the previous instalments. Although the first half of the story took the time to round up all of the survivors – including a couple of ones that you might not expect – I felt that it took far too long to do so. The pacing of the previous instalments was always rather steady but this novel just felt too bottom heavy. Much of the first two hundred pages was given over to conversations between Beth and Pen, odd dream sequences and strategy meetings, yet it was light on the action. While things did happen – and could be very exciting – these scenes were few and far between. Beth and Mater Viae didn’t even meet face to face until the very end of the story!

However, as the story entered its second half, things really did start to come to life. As Beth and Pen mobilised their army and assaulted Mater Viae, Our Lady of the Streets became an utter thrill ride. The final battle is certainly the most impressive event of the series since the defeat of Lord Reach in the first book, culminating in an epic brawl between the destructive forces that control the city.

Yet, that said, I think that the ending of the story will certainly divide readers. Beth’s final battle against the crazed Goddess is very strange and it took me a little while to suss out exactly what went down. Worse still was Pen’s dramatic ending. We last see her protecting a group of refugees from a terrible foe, yet don’t really learn much of what she did to resolve the situation. I did actually rather like the ending but I don’t think that will be every reader’s cup of tea. It is a little bittersweet and does leave the fates of certain characters up in the air.

Disappointingly, the characterisation in Our Lady of the Streets was a bit varied. Beth does not get anywhere near as much character growth as she deserves. While she has come a long way from the troublemaker that she was at the beginning of The City’s Son, she still does not seem to have changed that much over the previous two books. Even when she experiences great personal loss in this story, it does not seem to affect her as much as you would expect.

Mater Viae also does not appear as much as you would think in the story. Although the end of the last book was dramatic – with her terrifying return and the implied resurrection of Lord Reach – she remains on top of Canary Wharf for much of the novel and does not really interact with Beth until their final battle. While we see a lot of the damage that Mater Viae has wrought and learn of her horrible plan (which is far worse than anything I could have imagined), it would have been nice for her to play more of a direct role in this novel.

Yet, I did fall in love with Pen all over again in Our Lady of the Streets. While it was disappointing to see how her relationship with Espel was largely pushed to the background (in fact, we don’t see much of London-Under-Glass at all, despite the fact that The Glass Republic left it on the brink of Civil War), she did go from strength to strength. Unlike Beth, Pen is given a lot of room for emotional growth. Pollock gives her the chance to confront the demons of her past – both human and monster – and come out stronger. However, her most powerful moment for me was the brief scene that she shared with an elderly woman in the ruins of a supermarket. Pen has really blossomed over the course of the trilogy, growing from a shy and introverted character into a warrior.

So, I think that about covers everything. All in all, I did think that Our Lady of the Streets was the weakest instalment of the series but I am still glad I read it. Pollock’s world building is awe-inspiring and I feel a little sad to say good-bye to his London. I’m certainly never going to forget his world of voice-stealing spiders, chained river elementals and destructive crane gods. I really look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Our Lady of the Streets can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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