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City of Dreams & Nightmare
by Ian Whates

Published: March 2010 Angry Robot (UK)

This review was original published at my former blog. I’m republishing it to celebrate the US release of City of Dreams & Nightmare tomorrow!

The first in a series of novels set in one of the most extraordinary fantasy settings since Gormenghast — the vertical city of Thaiburley. From its towering palatial heights to the dregs who dwell in The City Below, it’s an incredible creation. When Tom, a teenage street thief from the depths, ventures into the uppermost levels to impress a girl, the last thing he expects to do is witness a murder. Accused of the crime, he must use all of his knowledge of the ancient city to flee certain death. (via Goodreads)

My thoughts:

Have you ever read a book that left you conflicted? Unsure? I’m sure we all have. That was my initial reaction to City of Dreams & Nightmare. I finished reading it two weeks ago, but I was hesitant to write my review. I needed time to mull  it over. It’s a complex book with as many levels as the city portrayed in its pages.

Whates crammed a lot of information, characters and sub plots into a story about a boy who witnesses a murder. Albeit, this is no ordinary boy and ultimately the story isn’t only about a murder. But you need patience to see that underlying story. At times I felt like there was too much going on and not enough character development. When answers were given they weren’t fulfilling enough, as if only half-answers were provided. But with that said, the world he created is a masterpiece. I’m still trying to get my head around the enormity of the city of Thaiburley. Its design is like nothing I’ve imagined before and I have a feeling there is still a lot left to discover about its origins and citizens–one reason I am eager for the sequel!

The journey Tom and Kat take through the belly of the city was a great way to experience the vastness of just this one level of Thaiburley. I also enjoyed the irony of the Kite Guard and Assassin teaming up in their search for Tom. There is a lot to love about City of Dreams & Nightmare. See? Even as I write this I’m realizing that despite my questions, I truly enjoyed this book. This is the sort of complex, world-building Fantasy readers dream of finding. It is not a roller coaster of action type read.

What I would like to see in the sequel:

1. More in the development of the main character, Tom. I didn’t find him engaging enough. Wherever he went, he was being led by another character. For the most part he’s a mystery. I found myself gravitating more toward the assassin, Dewar, than any other character in the book!

2. The origins of Thaiburley revealed? There was a bit of this information at the very end of the book. I’m looking forward to knowing more!

3. Who are the Jeradine? Where did they come from? If this was in the book it flew past me.

My thanks to Angry Robot for providing me with a copy of City of Dreams & Nightmare. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, City of Hope & Despair, due out later this year Spring 2011.