[personal profile] grimsqueaker
The third volume (and possibly last) in the City of a Hundred Rows series neither breaks particularly new ground nor squanders that which has been put in place in the previous installments of the series; whilst this might make it sound simply workmanlike and adequate, Whates' closing volume is neither, and sheds new light on areas previously in shadow, both of the city itself and the series.

City of Light and Shadow picks up right where City of Hope and Despair left off, and this review will contain spoilers, so the majority of the review will be under a cut.

The plot of City of Light and Shadow is less about new revelations, though we are treated to some of those, than closing off that which was brought up in previous novels; Tom and Mildra return to Thaiburley after their trip to see Thaiss, intent on saving the city from a malicious god (or at least, malicious from Thaiss' point of view); Rust Monsters burst from the walls and begin to slaughter their way through the Upper Heights, seemingly under the direction of that malignant entity; Kat and Tylus go into the Stain to close the plot of the Soul Thief and, indeed, of Insint, by destroying them; and Dewar himself gets his own, much more morally dubious, redemption in a plot that isn't focussed on heavily but is treated well.

Each strand of the plot is independent on its face but, especially as they move towards a conclusion, they become more intertwined, and centred on Thaiburley and on the contest between Thaiss and her brother, the malignant entity driving so much of the destruction in the previous novels.  It's not messily done, but rather Whates keeps the various strands very effectively separated out, whilst not taking that so far as to make it feel like they're disconnected; instead, since they all build on the same foundation, the four different strands mentioned in the first paragraph and so differently, and uniquely, resolved all manage to become a coherent whole, lending themselves to a complex, and interesting, structure.  City of Light and Shadows doesn't let up on the romantic tensions, either; whilst it seemed that at least those focussed on Tom might've been dealt with conclusively by the close of City of Hope and Despair, it seems Whates isn't quite content to let things go so simply, and the various romantic undertones are increasingly turned into overtones over the course of City of Light and Shadow, with perhaps mixed results.

In the end, City of Light and Shadow is an excellent conclusion to one of the best series to come out of the still-young Angry Robot Books; although, especially given the nature of the setting, if Whates chose to continue with another book, he could easily do so, since enough ends are left loose to allow it without too much shoehorning.  Brilliant work, and I highly recommend the entire City of a Hundred Rows trilogy to you.

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Squeaking of the GrimSqueaker....

February 2012

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