Thursday, 18 August 2011
Cons: hard to picture (purposely sparse details)
Tom, a street-nick from the City Below has illegally climbed to the heights of the City of a Hundred Rows, Thaiburley. There, he witnesses a murder and evades the capture of Kite Guard Tylus.
Tasked with finding the boy, Tylus heads to the lowest level, where trouble is brewing among the street-nicks. Meanwhile, Tom, trying to return to his home turf, is hunted by numerous things.
The city is intricately designed, from each Row having a separate purpose (one for merchants, one for bakers, etc.), to the limited technology employed by the inhabitants and the alien 'flatheads' (aka: Jeradine) and the caste systems (councillors, Arkademics, swarbs, merchants, street-nicks) and the posturing among the Kite and regular Guards.
Despite the complexity of the city and its players there's no real info dumping. Characters comment on and think about their world in wholly natural ways.
The story unfolds slowly with a mix of action and exploration - as Tylus goes to the City Below for the first time and as Tom travels down the levels and through territory he's never been to before on his own level.
The characters are interesting and complex, drawing you along during those rare quiet moments. And when things with the street-nicks begin to get interesting, all the plot lines tie up well - with a few left open for the sequel.
My only complaint - and I use the word loosely - is that, because you only get descriptions via the characters, it's hard to get an overall picture of Thaiburley. It's huge and carved out of a mountain and I suspect the author left parts of it to the reader's imagination in order to emphasize its strangeness and size.