City of Hope & Despair: City of a Hundred Rows, Book 2
by Ian Whates
Review by Mel Jacob
Angry Robot Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780857660886
Date: 29 March 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
An accomplished writer, Ian Whates continues the trilogy City of a Hundred Rows in City of Hope & Despair. Tom, a former street nick; the prime master of Thaiburley; and Kat, a Death Queen, seeks to survive and protect the City. The overall goal remains unclear, but appears to be the survival of Thaiburley, the City of a Hundred Rows. Unknown powers threaten the city and especially the "talented," those with quasi-magical abilities. The prime master, certain Tom holds the key to city's survival, sends him with three others on a quest to the Goddess Thaiss to beg her help. A demon, aware of the quest, mobilizes forces to kill Tom and end the quest.
Tom sets out with three companions, Kohn, a Kayjele (a blind cyclopean), Mildra, a Thaistess (priestess to Thaiss and healer), and Dewar, an assassin. At first, Tom wonders why the prime master sends these people. He soon learns he needs them all to succeed in the mission.
Meanwhile, Kat fights her own battle against the Soul Thief who killed her mother and again terrorizes the City Below. The Thief sucks the essence from those with "talent" and leaves a dead, desiccated shell. Every few years, the Thief haunts the City Below, but this time the depredations and deaths continue. The Tattooed Men and the Death Queens, Kat and her sister, have little success against it. Her initial reluctance to accept help from others changes as the battle continues.
While Kat makes new friends and acquires new enemies, the prime master faces the challenge of bone flu, which attacks the "talented" and calcifies their bodies leading to inevitable death.
Interesting characters facing daunting odds that force them to rise above their abilities makes for great reading. Whates manages to keep the different story lines moving and to provide an interesting blend of steampunk, magic, and science in his world. City of Hope and Despair ends rather than concludes. Most readers will want to know what happens next and they shouldn't have to wait long. The concluding volume of the trilogy, City of Light and Shadow is in preparation.