3 1/2 stars
A stunningly original urban fantasy debut
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.
This review is of an ARC received from NetGalley. You can get yours hands on a copy September 8, 2012.
So, if you follow me on Goodreads then you know this already, but this is for everyone else.
I HAVE ALL OF THE FEELINGS FOR THIS BOOK.
Not all of them are good. Not all of them are bad. I don’t even know how to deal with many of them right now. But I’m going to try to hash them out for you right here.
I’m going to start with the world, because it makes me drool. Seriously. That awesome set up the blurb gives you? IT’S EVEN COOLER THAN IT SOUNDS. Pollock has an awesome way of writing it, and every single line of description just makes it greater. It was a wonderfully refreshing read on multiple levels. It reminded me of older style fantasy, not simplified or watered down. It’s real, serious fantasy and is delightfully original and great to see in a young adult novel.
However, the world is also where the problem starts. I felt like I was never concretely set in it. All the sudden the book just comes at you and screams “RAILWRAITH ATTACK” and barely pauses to explain what a railwraith IS. How the world works, how the beings in the world work–all of it could have had a little bit more time spent on it and I would have given this book AT LEAST four stars, if not more. The setting was spectacular, but at times I just really didn’t understand it.
Unfortunately, the logical inconsistencies didn’t stop there. The main characters, Beth and Filius, made some really wacky judgements that didn’t make sense even if you try to pass them off for teenage rashness. It got to the point where I was literally yelling, “THINK A LITTLE BIT.” Most of this occurred in the beginning of the book, because I did not believe Beth’s reasons for finding and then joining Filius were believable. For me, it was too rushed and too implausible.
Speaking of which, everyone knows how I feel about insta-love in YA, right? Because I hate it. I hate it with all of my heart and soul. Which is why this book confused me. Beth and Filius never really fall in love, and then all the sudden they’re kissing and trying to take clothes off (they’re 15, people!) and offering to die for each other when I have no idea why. As far as I’m concerned, the reasons they were friends who made each other better was down like concrete and I believed it–that was very well written. But romance? That was never, ever there and just ended feeling awkward.
ALSO–lookout, angry Gretchen coming through–you cannot just have a character raped and forget about it. You really can’t do that. I understand that character then went through a crazy ordeal, but seriously. Why that was there at all I have no idea, because it had no impact on the plot and then wasn’t taken care of at all. It’s literally mentioned in all of two sentences. Rape is a big deal that can’t just be shoehorned like that.
A few technical issues on my part as well: The constantly switching point of view (POV). You were being slung around from character to character in the beginning, chapter to chapter, but for the rest of the book the bulk of it is just Beth. It constantly irked me that while everyone else’s POVs were in the third person, past tense, Filius’s (and a few random moments of other people) were first person, present tense. The editor in me was consistently jolted by this.
But honestly? At the end of the day, I liked the book. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I really did. I didn’t find it spectacular, but I found it to have potential. Just this world is worth reading, once you get into about the second half of the book. By that point, even if you don’t feel like you know all the details, you get enough so that things make enough sense to be really freaking awesome (if they weren’t already). The war, the description of it and the aftermath of it–for the winners!–was gritty, realistic, and showed the bittersweetness that comes with even being the victor. People died. People got hurt. The ending felt a little rushed, but it worked to show the impact that everyone feels, and the consequences of the choices they’ve made. I would definitely recommend this to all fantasy fans, young adult or no so young adult. This book isn’t watered down or romance oriented. It’s a story of multiple struggles, bravery and war. I eagerly anticipate the next book, The Glass Republic, because I believe that Pollock can only go up from here.