Thank you to Jo Fletcher Books for allowing me to contribute to The City’s Son read along.
Quick recap of where the story is so far
Beth has left the London she knows, following trouble at school and has been drawn into a London she never knew existed by a chance meeting with Fillius Viae, the Son of the Streets.
Fillius’ Mother is the Lady of the streets and has been missing since he was a baby.
Beth discovers the city is under threat from Reach, the Crane King and Fillius prepares for his mothers return in the hope that she can stop him.
He and Beth are trying to recruit an army of the various fantastical beings spread across London.
Meanwhile Beth’s friend Pen (who Beth thinks betrayed her) and Beth’s emotionally destroyed father are preparing to search the city for her.
In chapters 17 -20 Fillius and Beth continue their recruitment drive, while Pen and Mr Bradley set out to find Beth.
Both take a major twist.
Here we get an insight into Beth’s father. He is a man who has become emotionally crippled by the loss of his wife. He doesn’t know how to deal with Beth so hasn’t tried. He has closed himself off completely to the point where he has no photos of his daughter which could be used for the search.
His state goes some way to explaining Beth’s rebellious streak at school and her reliance on Pen.
Pen has little sympathy for Mr Bradley felling he didn’t try hard enough to connect with Beth.
So a wreck of a man and a girl with little respect for him set off on the search and come across the sight of a recent massacre of sodiumites.
Here things speed up and Mr Bradley is attacked by the Wire Mistress, Reaches terrifying minion.
He is saved by a combination of Beth and the intervention of Electra looking for revenge for her family destroyed recently.
Tragically Pen is then taken and in one of the more terrifying aspects of the book is imprisoned within the Wire Mistress to become her puppet. Blood and agony colour her existence from this point on.
The chapter finishes with a helpless Mr Bradley feeling like he’s let someone else down and lost another girl.
Something clicks inside him and the start of a potential redemption begin as he realises Beth is in a very different London.
After the failure to recruit the Pavement priests we now come across one of their number, Petris.
The main feeling throughout this chapter is one of fear.
This is compounded by Petris constant reminder that he has nothing to fear, then remembering why he’s afraid. His loyalty to Fillius has made him face up to his fears by firstly going against the other Pavement priests and secondly seeking out protection for the boy no matter how much the source scares him.
Petris stands out, for me, as a brave character despite all the fear, as he faces it to help Fillius.
Sadly it comes to nothing.
We get introduced to Johnny Naptha, a sort of leader of the Chemical Synod mentioned earlier in the book. The Chemical Synod come to play an important role in the series but is a fearful group to deal with. Petris is aware of the role they play in the imprisonment within stone that he suffers.
The Synod are dealers of a sort and will bargain anything for a price. Balance seems to be important to them. No balance, no deal.
Johnny Naphtha pollutes his surrounding, killing the vegetation around him showing how vile the synod must be to the terrified Petris.
No deal can be struck as Johnny knows any price would be out of Petris reach and no balance could ensue
Beth and Fillius continue their recruitment drive, this time focussing on a market place for Lamps. Here we come across a different group to the Sodiumites, the Blankleits or Whitelights.
The Blankleits show themselves to bare both a superiority complex and extreme hatred towards the more coloured Sodiumites leading to past wars and a current weak treaty.
The interesting concept of racism within a fantasy species is developed here and in the next chapter we learn of massacres undertaken by the Blankleits against Electra’s Sodiumite family.
From the off it seems any appeal by Fillius is doomed as the Blankleit leader associates him with his enemy. In the face of failure two things turn the tide.
Firstly Beth finds Victor, a drunken Russian who, while being human can see the stranger side of London. He also understands the semaphore language of the Lamps and helps to translate.
His assertion that you need to be drunk or crazy to see everything adds a nice comic twist to events.
Beth’s accidental insult of the Blankleits is the second turn leading her to realise they can understand her. She proceeds to insult and berate them until some form a grudging respect and decide to follow them. There is still a divide in the Lamps but Fillius’ army has grown again.
Here we get another look at Reaches stronghold, reminding us of how difficult a task any army cobbled together from the streets will have.
Electra has followed the Wire Mistress and the imprisoned Pen to Reaches domain and has to resist the urge to charge. Her memories at this point layout her past fears, including the wars between the two Lamp groups.
Her need for revenge for her family’s deaths and her love for Fillius are her overriding thoughts and she sets an alarm of sorts to wait for the Wire Mistress so she can avenge one and protect the other.
The sense of foreboding increases in these chapters. While some part of an army is recruited, Pen is enslaved, Petris is failed and the impenetrability of Reaches Kingdom is emphasised.
It’s hard not to fear for the main characters with the path laid out as it is.
A definite mood has been set for the chapters to come.