Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus)
I picked this up in the library about two weeks ago and it’s taken me a while to get through it. I think it’s meant to be a YA fantasy, but I had trouble deciding who the target audience were. The main characters were certainly adolescent, but it could as easily be read by adults.
Set in contemporary London the story follows the adventures of teenage graffiti artist Beth Bradley and her best friend and poet of the streets Pen (Parva Khan) as they get drawn into the war between the Urchin Prince, Filius Viae, and Reach, the Crane King.
Switching between the viewpoints of Beth and Filius the story tells of the midnight encounter with a railwraith by Beth and her involvement with Filius, as Pen is fighting her own battles. Betraying her only friend after one particular night of artistic revenge on a bullying teacher, Pen loses Beth to the hidden London. Beth’s father goes in search of her and Pen comes along to help. Unfortunately they are ambushed by Reach’s minion ‘The Wire Mistress’ who takes Pen as her avatar.
Meanwhile Beth and Filius are trying to build an army while waiting for his Mother, the Goddess of the Streets to return and help them; an army of statues, and lamp people, and one homeless Russian. Plus a person made of rubbish.
In fighting the war many battles are won and lost, lives lost and choices made. Sometimes you have to make a deal, and pay the price in the end. But the price of victory might not be worth paying. Beth has to decide as she becomes Filia Viae to Filius’s Filius Viae.
Although it took me a while to read this, I enjoyed it and will probably read the next one. The book feels allegorical; do we allow skyscrapers and things of glass and steel to destroy the life found in old city streets, is it progress or the killing of a place to change it? Renewal or ripping away of life? These are clearly pressing matters to think on and a balance or compromise has to be found, as Beth does. We have decisions to make, will we choose right, strike the right bargains and are we willing to pay the price for our choices?
Bye, for now