(A Novel of the Hidden Cities Book One)
Written by: Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Paperback: 400 pages
May 2008, $11.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy
For as long as she can remember, 17-year-old Jazz and her mother have been taken care of by the enigmatic dark-suited men known as the Uncles, equally relying on and fearing them. For that same length of time, Jazz's mother has drilled into her a sense of paranoia and distrust, to be wary of everyone, no matter what their outward appearance. There's the feeling that they're all waiting for something to happen, and one day, it does. Jazz comes home to find her mother murdered by the Uncles, and a last message written in her own blood: Jazz hide forever. And so Jazz runs, fast and far, ultimately ending up deep under London, in the vast labyrinth of tunnels and forgotten subway stations and abandoned bomb shelters, where the city's lost and unwanted congregate. There, she meets Harry, a smooth-tongued thief and modern-day Fagin who runs a small gang of teenagers he calls the United Kingdom. They take Jazz in, making her part of their odd little family, and she learns how to steal with the best of them, though never forgetting to be wary, never forgetting to keep an eye out for the Uncles and their agents. Even the Underground isn't entirely safe, for it's down here that the ghosts of London's past still dwell, existing in a tortured state of in-between, appearing only to those few with the ability to perceive them... like Jazz.
The longer Jazz spends with Harry and the others, the more she realizes that she's at the center of a great mystery, a mystery that's claimed numerous lives already, and bound to claim more before it's over. Who are the Uncles, and why did they kill Jazz's mother, and why are they after her? How does Harry fit into this? And what part will Terence, a dashing rival thief, play? The search for answers will take Jazz from the homes of the most important men in London, down into the forgotten depths of the Underground, and force her to stop running and make a stand once and for all. But one thing remains constant: trust is earned, not given, and there are far too many people with far too many secrets for her to be comfortable. Unfortunately, these secrets are worth dying for.
I have been a fan of Christopher Golden since the Buffy novel days as well as the Shadow Saga which is a great vampire series. His newer work including his collaborations with people like Mike Mignola (Baltimore), Thomas E. Sniegoski (The Menagerie series), and Amber Benson (Ghosts of Albion) have been great as well as his solo outings such as the Lost Ones series or the Ferryman. So it was hardly a surprise that I picked up his latest book. Plus I love the idea. When you think about it there are hidden cities everywhere, and not just in the Neil Gaiman Neverwhere sense. Instead cities that were created underground during wars, cities of the dead, or just cities built on the ruins of others.
The action in the novel begins right away when Jazz’s mother is murdered by the “Uncles” and its stays fairly steady until the second half of the book. When Jazz flees to the Underground she sees the ghosts or rather the echoes of those that once inhabited that same space. In fact the Hour of Screams was one of my favorite parts. With the United Kingdom there is a bit of Oliver Twist with the thieving and I enjoyed it. Even the nod to My Fair Lady. The action slows down midway and takes a bit of a turn, but it was one that I didn’t mind because it picks up again at the end. It’s a great story that is part urban fantasy, part thriller and part suspense. While I prefer some of Golden’s collaborations a little bit more, this was a quick, but solid read I look forward to seeing what Golden and Lebbon will do with New Orleans which is the Hidden City for the next volume.
3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks