Review: The City, Stella Gemmell

Rating: 4 out of 5

The City… I didn’t quite like the City at the start of this book, and I didn’t like it much more by the end. However, the characters who passed through this story became more appealing, and their quest to effect change was one I could appreciate.

Ms Gemmell’s work was not particularly unique and not particularly innovative—two very difficult goals to attain in any case. The author’s quest to have the story begin with some poor peasants in the sewers also wasn’t the finest choice, as very little about Emly and Elijah called for the reader to continue reading. This led to further confusion when it looked as if those two and Bart were entirely abandoned in Part 2 that dealt with Indaro and Fell—a more staggered approach could have made one’s introduction to the City much easier to go through.

Why I disliked the City was the very loose architectural basis on which it stood. Having layers and layers of houses and palaces on top of each other, without these collapsing, doesn’t quite make sense. At the same time, the underground rivers were supposedly routed right under the City while it would have been much easier for the ‘old’ engineers to detour it around, into the sea, given how close this was. However, it would have been much more difficult for the author to bring out the decadence that she wanted to display in the City without these features so it was all done for a reason.

The other bit I didn’t like was Ms Gemmell’s tendency to foreclose the fate of characters approximately three chapters before she actually wrote that scene. The second-to-last chapter would add some detail, the penultimate one would perhaps say how it happened, and the final chapter would actually describe the event itself. This created suspense the first time round, but became too familiar when it took place the second and third time.

Yet, overall, I liked this book. I would have liked to know more about the peoples’ and their beliefs, what was important to them, and how the decades-long war affected the world, but the author made some good points. The characters, especially Amita and Riis, grew on me, and I think Ms Gemmell has a flair for introducing personae to her works. That said, I’m planning to continue with the second installment as well.

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