Tuesday, November 2, 2010

[REVIEW] City of Dream and Nightmare by Ian Whates

I have had The City of Dreams and Nightmare on my TBR pile since the date of release and now wish I had read it sooner, for I denied myself the pleasure of a thoroughly good book! This is Urban Fantasy in the truest sense of the term... the city, Thaiburley, is a starring character in its own right and dominates the book with its brooding complexity. Also known as ‘The City of a Hundred Rows’, Thaiburley is a vertical city with a distinct hierarchy; the poorest live in the lowest reaches with the privileged in the heights. At the very top live… well, that would be telling! In between is a myriad of people, trades, professions, creatures – each row, or level, is clearly defined by it’s inhabitants, as described in the nursery rhyme quoted by Tom in the opening chapter
“At first he’d kept count, reciting the lines which every citizen, Below or Above, learnt almost as soon as they could speak, but there were so many of them…
From the Streets Below to the Market Row
From taverns and stalls to the Shopping Halls…
From trinkets so cheap to exclusive boutique…
Yet for a city so seemingly ordered, Thaiburley is mysterious and full of secrets. The gothic-noir feel of the urban landscape adds atmosphere to the plot and informs the personality of the entire book. It is a city that intrigues me and I am very pleased that City of Dreams and Nightmare is just the first in a series because I want to immerse myself in Thaiburley again and again.

The main character, Tom, appears in the first chapter on a quest to obtain something from the very top of the city. He is a street kid from the slums of City Below, undertaking a task (stealing a demon egg) which, if he completes successfully, will earn him status with his peers in the Blue Claw gang and with Jezmina, the girl he wants to impress. In the upper reaches, hiding from two arkademics, he witnesses a murder which changes the course of his life forever. Pursued by Tylus, a reluctant Kite Guard, who is in turn being stalked by an assassin, Tom flees the higher rows back to the relative safety of City Below, where is friend and ally, Kat, is waiting for him. But Kat has her own issues. She is a strange and secretive girl, with unexpected connections and talents. Both Tom and Kat’s points of view dominate the novel and indeed, they are the most well-realised and complete characters as we follow them trying to survive all that Thaiburley has to throw at them. I particularly liked Kat’s mix of vulnerability, strength and sass and hope to see more of her in future, certainly her final scene would indicate that will be the case.

Ian Whates has drawn some very imaginative creatures and characters in City of Dreams and Nightmare: the nasty Dewar, ex-mercenary, butler and bodyguard who reveals his softer side on occasion; Magnus, the Machiavellian villain who hopes to destabilise Thaiburley for his own ends; the ‘Jerardine’, alien lizard-like creatures who have truly creepy ‘sculptures’; the magical cape-flying Kite Guards; and the monstrous Demon Hounds, spider-like parasitical creations that can influence the minds of the weak. All play their role in the book and, to be fair, some do it better than others, but I did appreciate the imagery used to create the overall sense of a city in danger of being toppled by corruption from within.

The sequel, City of Hope and Despair, is due for release early next year and I will be reading this as soon as I can get my hands on it. I want to return to immerse myself in the dark and exotic world of Thaiburley, with it’s weird inhabitants, both human and non-human; strange and sometimes warped magic; and hybrid cyborg machine-creatures. While the plot may be at times staid and familiar, I found this reassuring in such an imaginative setting, where the twists come, not necessarily from the plot, but from the characters and creatures found within possibly the most amazing and mind-blowing cityscape I have yet encountered. And that is no mean feat!

Reviewer: Cara (@murf61)

Rating: 8/10

INFORMATION
Title: City of Dreams and Nightmare
Author: Ian Whates
Series: City of a Hundred Rows, volume 1
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot (4 Mar 2010)
ISBN-10: 0007345240
ISBN-13: 978-0007345243
Genre: Fantasy
Copy: Bought new

Available from: Amazon UK - US | B&N | Book Depository

SUMMARY (on back of the book)
They call it “The City of a Hundred Rows”. The ancient city of Thaiburley is a vast, multi-tiered metropolis. The poor live in the City Below and demons are said to dwell in the Upper Heights.

Having witnessed a murder in a part of the city he should never have been in, street thief Tom has to run for his life. Down through the vast city he is pursued by sky-borne assassins, sinister Kite Guards, and agents of a darker force intent on destabilising the whole city. His only ally is Kat, a renegade like him, but she has secrets of her own…

4 comments:

Jason Baki said...

I really want to read this now! :)

littleredreviewer said...

this sounds like my kind of Urban Fantasy! and my kind of gothic/noir as well. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy, and i'm happy to hear there is more in the series.

has the author announced how many books are planned for the series?

keziah said...

I love that book! I swear









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BookCreak

Murf61 said...

Thanks for the comments :-)

@littredreviewer I'm not sure how many books are planned in the series but the second, City of Hope and Despair, is due for release March 2011.

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