SFX (USA) | 13 July 2008 | Simon Withers

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED UNDER THE title Ayuamarca back in 1999, Procession of the Dead has now been heavily revised by DB Shan for what the publishers describe as the “director’s cut” version, and is the first offering in Shan’s City Trilogy for adult readers. In the intervening eight years the London-born Irishman’s been a busy lad, producing a 12-part children’s saga under his Darren Shan monicker. The City in question is unnamed, its whereabouts unstated and mysterious. We’re drip-fed snippets of history and geography so sparingly that it could be in Britain or America or somewhere else entirely, and while the story seems to be set in the present (or a version of the present), that’s never explicitly stated. Names from popular culture are dropped in occasionally - Mr Chips, Al Capone, Bjorn Borg - but the impression given is that this is an alternate history. The City is under the control of a massively powerful criminal overseer, The Cardinal, in charge of prostitution, protection rackets and all manner of general nefariousness. Into his employ comes the young and ruthless Capac Raimi, the book’s narrator, who’s a man without a past. His surname comes from his supposed Inca heritage and it’s Raimi’s search for his own past - and how this links to other Incas and the enigmatic Ayuamarca - that pulls together the book’s various threads. The City is intriguing, simultaneously familiar yet other. But frustratingly, Shan often doles out information at the rate of a particularly lethargic and leaden episode of Lost, almost wilfully withholding crucial snippets. Yes, it can be a beguiling read, but it’s often equal parts infuriating and absorbing, while the narrator is virtually impossible to like. There is a fantastic revelation at the end, though…

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