City of Last Chances
By Adrian Tchaikovsky
- City of Last Chances
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Publisher: Ad Astra
- ISBN: 9781801108423
- Published: December 2022
- Pages: 512
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 12/12/2022
- Language: English
I have read more than my fair share of fantasy novels and I love them. As a rule, they fall into a couple of camps on how they are narrated – from a single point of view, or through the eyes of several people, normally 3-7. Leaping from one character and back again works in the genre as it gives you multiple perspectives on the same epic events; from the side of good, evil, and, even on occasion, the indifferent. Adrian Tchaikovsky is well versed in fantasy, so as an author they are well placed to mix thing up. City of Last Chances is a story told from the perspective of potentially any citizen of Ilmar.
Ilmar is known as the city of last chances, a place where people go to be hidden or start again. Its residents are currently under the control of the foreign power of the Palleseen and their strict rules. As a centre of industry and education, it is a key place, but one that is known for its uprisings. If that was not enough, it rests on the edge of the mysterious Anchorwood, a place that people enter and never leave. Ilmar is starting to smoulder once again, and we follow several people as the powder keg starts to go off.
Structure is not often the thing that I highlight when discussing fantasy novels, but Tchaikovsky has created a genuinely different take than I have read before. The book starts with a few characters being introduced, but then you start to realise that the chapters keep moving on to new people. We are told the story of Ilmar, not from the perspective of the individual, but the city as a whole. It is like Tchaikovsky has a beam that focuses on one person and then leaps across the city to another, always moving on to the next location with each new chapter.
On occasion, it does not focus on a person, but a location. Here the chapter may jump between the characters who are currently there. It is a tricky style to get your head around, but it works, especially as the book progresses. Main characters do come to the fore and are revisited or seen from the perspective of another. The priest who is the only worshipper of a small God, the naïve student, the jaded academic, the black marketer, the mysterious warrior. The number of characters goes on, but you have a sense of who they are as the action builds.
With such a different structure, City does not feel like any other fantasy novel that I have read, but it still has all the elements, just in unusual places. By book’s end you have a good sense of the world building and a few characters that you will know and enjoy. The concluding section flows into something more usual, fewer of the characters are alive to jump between and those that remain are more focussed in a few key areas. I enjoyed City as a fantasy novel but am also very appreciated going on the different journey that Tchaikovsky took me.
Written on 12th December 2022 by Sam Tyler .