sci-fi-london.com | 08 May 2008 | Robert Grant
Best known for his children’s books, and building on their success, Procession of the Dead (part of The City Trilogy) - first published 10 years ago, but now revisited - sees Shan’s first foray into adult literature surface as a gritty, noirish, urban fantasy.The book opens as Capac Raimi arrives in The City determined to make his mark as a gangster. He learns the tricks of the trade - extortion, racketeering, threatening behaviour - from his Uncle Theo and pretty soon he’s on his way to becoming a promising new gangster. When a disastrous meet ends in a bloodbath, Capac is brought before The Cardinal - the legendary Boss who ‘owns’ the The City - and his life changes forever.Against all expectations, Capac is brought into The Cardinal’s inner circle and suddenly finds himself being touted as successor to the throne. He begins to move in high circles, taking on tasks for The Cardinal directly and life looks just about perfect - but then things take a strange twist. His new best friend disappears and when he makes enquiries, no-one can remember that the guy even existed - not even his sister - so Capac starts to do some digging. When it happens again, he realises something is wrong and that his new boss must be at the bottom of it.His investigations bring him into contact with Ama, who points out that neither of them has a past that they can remember. When he realises it’s true, he must find out where he came from and why he’s about to disappear, who are the mysterious monks who bring on the green fog, why he’s being followed by serial killer Paucar Wami and how he’s going to handle the inevitable showdown with The Cardinal.Procession Of The Dead is a short, sharp read, well paced and always interesting enough to keep you turning the page. The fantasy elements arising from the Incan references that pepper the book, from the character names to the chapter titles, are well realised and, refreshingly, retain their mystery until the very end, and the final reveal, when it comes, gives the reader a genuine ‘aha!’ moment that slots all the pieces together with a satisfying clunk.For anyone who knows the Darren Shan novels, while there isn’t any more violence in this than in his children’s books, the adult themes and bad language mark them out as different and there is a definite moral ambiguity surrounding some of Capac’s actions that only adults will have the frame of reference to understand.For the first in a trilogy, the plot unexpectedly wraps up quite nicely at the end so that it can easily stand alone. This makes me wonder where the rest of the trilogy can go, but the setting of The City and the cast of characters could easily stand further exploration so what I can say is that whenever the next book comes out, I will be reading it.
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