Friday, September 9, 2011

The Dark City

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Story: Raffi and his master Galen are on the run from evil members of the Watch, who hate sorcerers such as they. Along the way, they meet up and join with a member of this evil Watch, Carys, (obviously THEY don't know she's a member of the Watch), and also a non-human cat-like person who is never named because they couldn't pronounce its name anyway. They go on a quest of sorts to a) get back Galen's lost power, the loss of which is slowly driving him insane b) capture said non-human cat-like person who is never named, c) find the Crow, who is the messenger to God, and who might help to fix the rotten world they live in.

Review: This is why I love Catherine Fisher. I'm still trying to get through the Snowwalkers trilogy by her, and it's been tough going. But this one immediately has the elements about her writing that make her one of my favourite authors (below Megan Whalen Turner, Chesterton, Diana Wynne Jones, some others I've forgotten, about on par with Jonathan Stroud), namely:
--Very ambiguous and complex characters. Raffi is the only person in the whole book who seems pretty much straightforward. Carys is amazing, and I loved her, and Galen is the type of person I like immediately, always. He's all dark and tormented, poor fellow, without being all sexy with powerful thighs like the last book I read. (Sorry, Enthusiasm. You had lots of good points. I just CAN'T STAND lead male characters who are introduced by their good looks.)
I read a review about the characters which compare them too much with the Incarceron characters, but I disagree. True Raffi might be a bit like Finn, but I'm slightly biased in that regard because Raffi and Finn are not my type. But Galen is completely and totally different than Jared. I mean, they are both teachers, I guess, and they both have a physical sickness or problem of some sort, but otherwise... And Carys is very different from Claudia. Their names start with the same letter, and they're both clever and complex, but Carys is so much more changeable and manipulative.
Ack. Anyway.
--The world. It's complexity and originality. This one was AWESOME. It reminded me of some of DWJ's work, where things we know from everyday are so disguised by the fact that nobody in the book knows what they are, that they seem to be something else entirely, if that makes sense. And oh, I'm not very articulate right now, but it really is cool. Maybe not quite as cool as Incarceron, simply because Incarceron was ALIVE.
--I'm not going to comment on the lack of romance this time, because it's one book out of four that are all closely connected, as far as I can see. But I probably will for the last one, even though I seem to comment on it for every CF book. Just to warn you. And perhaps I really shouldn't for these books because they're Middle Grade, but I don't care because this is MY review and opinion. SO THERE nasty non-existent readers!

So in summary, even if the world weren't intriguing and completely original, I would love it for Carys and Galen. Carys reminds me vaguely of a female Ben Linus (who almost tops the charts of my favourite TV characters ever)--her lying seems to come out of her instinctively, and no one (except maybe Galen, but that's partly because of his religious fanatacism--see next sentence) can ever really tell whether she's telling the truth or not. And Galen is a religious fanatic who's one of the GOOD guys. That's quite refreshing. It doesn't mean his fanaticism is portrayed as a good thing, necessarily, but understandable. At least for me.

Sequels are: The Lost Heiress, The Hidden Coronet, and The Margrave.

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