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The Glass Republic

The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock, The Skyscraper Throne #2

Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror. Pen’s reflected twin is the only girl who really understands her.

Then Parva is abducted and Pen makes a terrible bargain for the means to track her down. In London-Under-Glass looks are currency, and Pen’s scars make her a rare and valuable commodity. But some in the reflected city will do anything to keep Pen from the secret of what happened to the sister who shared her face.

A few weeks back I read Tom Pollock's debut, The City's Son, and I was left quite speechless. It was something totally new, the world that Tom Pollock envisioned definite had a lot of alluring features and really managed to set itself apart in the competitive world of alluring features. In this first book in the series we were introduced to several characters and even though Fil isn't featuring in the second book, Beth and Pen more make up for this. The ending of the book left a great many opportunities for both of them to make it a winner, Beth finally became what Fil wanted, a daughter of the streets and Pen was struggling with all that she has gone though. With such a great debut, I bet there was a lot of pressure on Tom Pollock's shoulders but let me just say this up front. You don't want to skip this book. 

Like I mentioned above, the focus of the story is on both Beth and Pen, with a little more emphasis on Pen. The story does pick up with a different pacing than what I had seen in The City's Son, re-establishing some boundaries and giving a clear picture and way into the The Glass Republic, I was secretly hoping to have this lightning fast type of action dragging me into the story but with this type of entry it does come to show what ever Tom Pollock writes will grab you and drag you in. But let me just get back to the characters. Pen is a real treat to read about. She is going through some rough times in the book, it feels she is on a journey of discovery (and this isn't fun stuff at all). The amount of time and effort that Tom put into her character, making her complex and intriguing at all times, really makes Pen shine. Pen is portrayed as a fragile teenager not knowing exactly how to deal with several emotions, clinging to different people to have a safehaven. But this is soon to change, gradually. Pen's storyline completely transformed the story that I had imagined of The Skyscraper's Throne so far, if you think you have seen all that is possible with alternate urban fantasy inspired London's... think again, you will be in for a surprise... the idea that Tom Pollock introduces in The Glass Republic is just brilliant (but I will get to is in a moment). 

Next to Pen there is Beth, who now is a daughter of the streets, taking over Fil's job. We really got to know Beth in the first book, but in The Glass Republic she does seem to take a more conserved role int he background, or at least so it seems to be. I still enjoyed her parts of the story, but couldn't directly place it all in the bigger context of the story, just until the later parts of the story where you see most of it all collide with each other. Beth's story takes place in the "normal" London that we were introduced to in The City's Son, there are again some top notch fighting scenes with Beth, her spear and some baddies, but taken on the whole there are some quite interesting things taking shape in her storyline that will make sure that the third book in the series will be unforgettable! 

Besides Beth and Pen there are a plethora of other characters, new and old, that make a visit in the storyline. The old characters include: Gutterglass, Johnny Naphtha (the voice of the chemical synod) and the Pavement Priests. Since these revisiting characters all were clearly introduced in the first book, there was a direct build and usage of these characters, not wasting unnecessary time elaborating but keeping the action and pacing pretty tight. As for the new characters, they are introduced gradually into the story, not giving an information dump as to who they are what they do but letting them being picked up by the reader in the natural flow of the story. As for the new faces of the book, or partly, there are The Faceless, Parva, and Espel that really stand out. These three characters are all introduced in Pen's storyline. One character that really started to stand out in the story was Espel, who has this complicated relation with Pen. it is by Espel that everything turns out the be much more complicated for Pen, doubting herself and not knowing what to do and how to tackle several subjects. In the end it all turns out to be pretty ok but something just are complicated. As for the Faceless, when I first read about them I was like, what.... ok... cool!! I think now it's time to broach the COOLEST part of the book. London-Under-Glass. 

So London-Under-Glass. This is not your normal London. London-Under-Glass is the mirror image of London! yes that's right, another "dimension" of the urban fantasy London of the Skyscrapers Throne. This whole idea is bold brave and daring but it totally works and all that Tom Pollocks involves in building this world is just sheer brilliance. London-Under-Glass is a completely different world that holds onto different values than the normal London. There is a great distinction between classes in the London-Under-Glass with the mirrorstocracy. The main differences in this world is the perception of what is beautiful and how you are being judged by the fact when you are perfectly symmetrical or when you have flaws, what most people seem to find attractive in the normal version is competently mirrored in London-Under-Glass. It's so rich and inventive and makes it so hard to give a clear description of just how detail this is all explained, there are still so many things going round and round in my head about this concept of The Glass Republic. This alternate, alternate version is really something you have to experience for yourself, I know you will be sitting there reading, with your mouth agape, it's amazing; I wish I never had to part with this world. 

The ending of The Glass Republic leaves a lot of threads open to be picked up in the conclusion of The Skyscraper Throne, especially the last few sentences of the book produced one grande opening and promising final volume. The City's Son gave a great feel to this urban fantasy London and The Glass Republic built greatly upon these foundations. Tom Pollock shows how he stepped up his game and just how to take a story further. There are no revisits of earlier proposed actions, instead it's all new stuff and experiences that are being thrown at you (in a good way!!), the action never stops and the pacing is downright spot on. With all that Tom Pollock has shown so far with these two books, marks him as an author to be aware off... once you picked up one of his books, prepare to be hooked. You won't be able to put them down. Recommended for every urban fantasy fan. The Skyscraper's Throne is a one-of-a-kind series, it's brilliant!

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