Firstly a disclaimer: This book was written by the boyfriend of a girl I
went to high school with, like 10 years ago. I say girl, she’s a woman, because
she’s an adult, like me, although we were girls in high school I guess. Why am I going on this tangent? (Because I’m me.)
Anyway; she asked me if I’d read/review it, and sent me a copy for free. This
will still be an honest review, but just, know that.
The book is about a city more than anything. It’s about a city in three
levels. It was originally just one level, but then it grew, beyond its borders
and limits, and now there’s the Plateau, a city hanging in air over the world,
where there is sunlight and air and where people are doing well. Where the
richer people live. There is the Surface level, which is obviously on the
surface of the world, a bit more working class, where crime is more prevalent, although
people are doing okay, but need some help. Especially since they have the Hive
underneath. The Hive is a sort of lawless place of gangs, violence, weapons and
drugs. It’s basically run by three gang leaders who live in a Mexican Standoff that can always crack. The city was built this way
with the help of alchemists, the alchemists are now shoved into the Hive,
disliked, and the Plateau and the Surface try to ignore them. Enter Ian Allant,
a political genius, an activist, and a man who tries to help the Alchemists,
get them back their previous standing, and who tries to help the Hive. When
Allant is murdered a P.I., Theo Donovan, is asked to help the Plateau Police to
find his killer, because they know the Surface or Hive must be involved.
There’s also this side story going on which I’ll get back to.
It’s technically a thriller/crime novel, but it is sprinkled with these
sci-fi/fantasy elements, which I really liked, because I am not a huge thriller
fan. I tend to find crime books kind of boring, therefore I really liked that
this one wasn’t straight up crime. I am however very easy when it comes to
I feel like the author had a very clear grasp of his world and his
characters. He knew them well and what
he was doing. His world building is great, and I got a real feel for how
different the different levels of the city were. He also seems to have a very
serious grasp of his characters. The story is told from several perspectives,
Theo’s, his ex-wife’s, Allant’s brothers, and a mysterious Aries. They all have
very distinct and different voices, which can be hard to do, so that was really
It very much leans on the crime/thriller genre, but it’s also very
strongly in the urban fantasy genre and the author seems very comfortable with
both genres. There isn’t that much magic. The alchemy seems more like science
than magic, which I suppose it is in some ways.
I feel like Theo was the most, and best, developed character, which
makes sense, he is in many ways the main character. I think Martin was
interesting in many ways, he’s got a lot of interesting characteristics, he’s
struggling with his brother’s death, and his guilt over how he feels about it.
He felt a little… too naïve and sheltered, it bugged me a little, but it was
true to his character. He is also trying to find out what happened to his
brother, and because the Allant family is incredibly wealthy he hasn’t had to
go outside, and he’s never been down to the Surface, so he’s really breaking
out of his comfort zone.
I liked Janine, she’s Theo’s ex, and used to be a cop. A lot of her
purpose is sort of tied up to Theo. It’s natural, they were married, and
they’re still friends, and she was sort of brought into it by Theo, so it’s
natural. She gets very intense and very dragged into the case, and I liked her.
She’s tough and badass, and I liked her.
There’s a lot of backstory that isn’t revealed. And a lot of the
backstory is teased out over time. It’s not dropped on you out of nowhere,
there’s no info dumping really, it’s teased out over time when it’s needed, and
some of it is only hinted at and not actually revealed. Theo doesn’t really
have the traditional detective flaw, but there is clearly something awful in
his past, which is continually hinted to.
As mentioned there is a sort of side story. There is a mysterious
alchemist named Aries who is sending letters to a person named Mars. Aries is
going with a group of alchemists and soldiers below the Hive to a place called
Foundation where they’re trying to set up a sort of haven for people who live
in the Hive. In the beginning I struggled to see what Mars and Aries had to do
with anything, but it eventually becomes clear that there’s this huge plot and
conspiracy that Mars, Aries, Allant and Theo are part of.
There is a lot happening. I sometimes felt a little confused, but mostly
I kept up with everything that was happening. It was very clear and all that.
There’s that eloquence I’m known for. Even though a lot is going on I never
really felt left behind.
I have some… not really criticisms, but things that could have been done
better. It’s self-published, and while it’s impressively done I think it would
have done well with an editor sort of tightening it and going through it before
it was published. I think it was good, but I think that some places I think it
needed an editor asking questions and tightening it up a bit. I also feel like
it was finished very quickly. It was suddenly just… done. I think it would have
been better if some of the many threads had been wrapped up sooner, or at least
started sooner. In the last two chapters A LOT happened in a very short time.
And it felt a bit rushed. Although I think an editor would have organized that
An important “character” in this book is the City. And I thought that
was great. I like when geographical aspects have a big role in the story. The
people in the different levels are very different and they feel like they
belong there and are true to the places they live in.
I really liked it. I thought it was interesting. I thought the author
had a good grasp of his characters and the world he’s made. I thought the story
was interesting, and good, and I think he has incredible potential as an
author. The City is its own character, which I like. Yes, good job.