John Toon - A Cry For Help | 09 April 2011 | John toon

Waaaaay, way back in 1999, Orion Books published Ayuamarca: Procession of the Dead by Darren O'Shaughnessy. This was one of the last books in the 1990s wave of city-centred fantasy novels that I've previously mentioned in this blog, and like its forebears it was under-promoted and quite probably not printed in great quantities to start with. It was subtitled as The City Book 1, implying further commitment on the publisher's part. Hell's Horizon, aka The City Book 2 followed a year later, but then, silence. And this was a shame. The two books - actually set within the exact same time period - formed a closely twined and satisfying duo, but more from the author if not in the series would have been nice.
The year after that, in 2001, Pan published China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, and woops, suddenly fantasy with an urban flavour was marketable. But by then O'Shaughnessy was concentrating on an extremely popular series of children's horror stories he'd started writing under the name Darren Shan around the same time that Ayuamarca came out. He's only recently used that popularity to relaunch The City Trilogy, as it now is, with City of the Snakes the newly published third volume in the series.


It's set several years after the first two books, with the heroes of both struggling to maintain the public personae they've assumed. Capac Raimi, the immortal successor to the Cardinal, was created to rule the City and enjoys doing so, but is losing control over the City's criminal gangs. He's also threatened by the blind villac priests who created him, but whom he's been working to overthrow. Al Jeery, former security guard, has taken on the persona of his father, legendary serial killer Paucar Wami, in an attempt to catch the man who ruined his life in Book 2. This is something he's done largely unwillingly, but he finds it increasingly difficult not to act the part. The apparent reappearance in the City of the real Paucar Wami heralds big problems for Capac and Al.


There's quite a difference between the feel of this book and my memory of the first two, which could be down to my memory or to a natural shift in Shan's writing style in the intervening decade. It'd be interesting to get hold of the re-released, re-edited first two volumes and compare them to the two I've got just to see how much they've been changed, if I only had the time. Ayuamarca and Hell's Horizon never really felt (at the time, anyway) as if they were leading towards a final third volume, and it's a bit weird to now read a book that ties everything up when it didn't previously seem to need tying up. It's a bit weird to read a book that picks up the stories of two moody, atmospheric, almost nightmarish books and turns them into a dark but rather more straightforward thriller with a proper resolution. (Again, could be my memory playing tricks.) Still not entirely sure how I feel about this book, but I wouldn't deny that it was an entertaining read.

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