The City Book Review

The City by Stella Gemmell is out now, published by Transworld

When your late husband is a much-loved and well-respected fantasy novelist, to follow in his footsteps is a heroic mission. Stella Gemmell tested the water by bravely completing the book David was working on at the time of his death and now she finally has her very own solo novel, The City. Mission impossible or mission complete?

The City consists of seven parts, each one set in a different part of the city an ancient kingdom with rotting, flood ravaged sewers at its base tiered with century old layers of building and surrounded by the blood soaked battle fields of a perpetual war.

At the heart of the city is an enigmatic Emperor who has ruled for an unnaturally long time, few have clapped eyes on him and his mortality is a mystery.

Exciting as this all sounds, it takes a mightily long time to get there; extreme patience and a good memory are desirable qualities to possess when embarking on this reading marathon.

Gemmell pays extreme attention to detail and constructs a brutally visual world with more layers than a pickled onion and vivid, motivated characters each with a heartbreaking history, which you will need excellent recall skills to interpret.

Thrilling and devastating events occur, but there are only so many times you can depict a battle without becoming repetitive and only so many characters that can vanish and reappear with a new name before it all becomes too predictable. Read one throat slashing, you’ve read them all!

The City is a true epic: long and dominated by war much like the buttock-numbing, guaranteed Bank Holiday Monday film favourites Spartacus, Ben-Hur, 300, Troy et al. Lurking in the midst of these long winded spectacles is generally a gripping story and The City is no exception, but why take 554 pages when all you really need is 254?