Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: The City Trilogy

This entry is part 43 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I feel good again.

All year I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. Life shot my motivation. My writing went to pot and my reading followed close at its heels.

Before I went on holiday I was at my lowest point. I’d pretty much given up on writing. I was struggling to finish books in seven days when I’d been ploughing through at least two a week before. I was rushing reviews so they were shit. All in all, I was feeling low.

Then came the holiday, and a chance to renew. A chance I promised myself I would take and grabbed with open hands.

On the two week holiday, I read eight books and wrote a few upcoming blogs (from my How to Win at Authoring Series).

That was good, but it was holiday. Holidays are easy, false. The real question was, would I be able to land back in England and keep the trend going?

Answer: Yes.

If I finish the book which will follow The City Trilogy tomorrow. An event which will come to pass unless I finish it today. I will have read two books a week since returning from holiday.

That’s five weeks. Enough time to say this is not a little post-holiday boost. I’m doing this.

And it’s not only the reading, or keeping up with my blogging (which is also happening).

Upon returning to my desk I decided I would get back into the writing. Yes, I’m six months behind schedule, but it was time to reset everything.

So, I began the latest draft of the next novel I will release and told myself I would do it by Sunday 3rd June.

That, at the time of writing, is today.

I finished the draft yesterday, writing 9,421 words on the day. The second best day I had, right above third – 8,170 words – and a little below first – 11,456 words.

That’s right. I’m back.

For now. We’ll see how it all progresses in the coming weeks.

I’m happy with it anyway. As I was happy to read the City trilogy, three books written for adults, but by one of my favourite YA authors – Darren Shan.

I’ve written about my relationship with and love for Darren Shan before in my Thin Executioner blog. So check that out here before we proceed.

The City Trilogy

As for the City Trilogy, I’ve had them a long time (God knows how long) and have read the first two in their entirety before.

I had it in my head I had only read the first few pages of the third before quitting for reasons unknown, but that wasn’t so.

There were scenes I recognised reading it this time that happen at least a third of the way through the book. But I didn’t finish it, and so I was reading the back end of the book for the first time.

But what did I think?

The stories

The City Trilogy comprises three books set in (any guesses?) the City.

This is a dark horrible place, run by gangs and criminals. It’s disgusting, the streets flowing with blood and dirt and grime.

I guess it’s based on London.

The stories are engrossing and fast-paced. All fall within a similar genre of urban/ fantasy mix. But all have slight variations to this starting point. A crime novel, a murder mystery, and a more action-packed climax book.

The first – Procession of the Dead – revolves around a young man who comes to The City to forge his path as a gangster. Here the top criminal – The Cardinal – fast marks Capac his favourite. Suggesting he will reach the top.

As he does this, Capac – our young gangster – realises strange things are going on. People close to him are disappearing, and only he seems to remember them. What’s more, he can’t remember his own past. At least, not more than snatches of it.

Pushing on with his investigation brings him up against the Cardinal. Leading to a confrontation in which Capac finds out the truth. Not only about himself. About The Cardinal, too, and the strange blind Incan priests who roam the city.

Well, he learns some of the truth about this last group. We won’t know the full story until the end of book three.

The second book – Hell’s Horizon – takes place at the same time as the first. With The Cardinal charging Al of his security force to investigate a murder at the Cardinal’s hotel.

This murder is of Al’s own girlfriend, Nic.

The murder mystery is well done.

Shan’s first attempt was to write a straight, hard-boiled crime novel. Only to realise this was not his bag.

Instead, he turned it into a part of The City series. Adding in the mystical elements including the Incan Priests and much more.

Al discovers most of the truth about what has happened, and in doing so learns of the Incan priest’s plans for him. Plans he turns away from in a big way.

The final book – City of the Snakes – is a culmination of the first two, taking place ten years after these.

Beginning with a short segment narrated by Capac, Al then takes over for the vast majority of the book.

Here Shan ties all loose end, as Al battles to defeat the Incan’s, and stop their plan for taking over the City for good.

All three books are well written, well paced, and with plenty of twists along the way. They were easy to get through, but I mean that not in a negative way.

In fact, they were a total joy to read.

Style (voice)

An author’s voice is something oft talked about. Especially when reading about becoming a writer, as I often am.

It’s an interesting one and a term that is hard to pin down with a definition.

Still, having read most of Darren Shan’s YA fiction and now these books, it is clear he has a voice.

These books are more adult than his YA ones. There are bits here which would not be suitable for kids.

Yet, his style and his voice remain consistent. You can tell you are reading a Darren Shan book. A mighty good thing if you are a big fan, as I am.


Darren has blessed this series with a whole heap of interesting characters.

I will discuss them in no great depth. But The Cardinal, his right-hand man Ford Tasso, the witty assassin Paucer and most the other people to grace these pages are interesting.

Each carries distinctive personalities. Whether they appear in as many as several chapters (or even books) or as few as several pages.

As for the two leads…

I loved Capac Raimi from the off. He was young, witty, emotional, tempestuous, and everything else I like my main characters to be. He showed compassion for those he cared about but wasn’t afraid to go against those bigger than himself.

Even as the novel developed and he became more ruthless, crueller, I liked him. Hey, maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m twisted, but I thought he was fantastic.

I liked Al Jeery, too, but not so much. Despite his transformation in book three he never stepped beyond your standard main character.

He was a teetotal alcoholic with a bit of wit, and at times showed he could be ruthless. But mainly he was the kind of man to do the right thing no matter what. There was little edge to him, I thought. Little to make him stand out .

It was for this reason I put down the third City book the first time around, years ago. I was disappointed not to see Capac in the second book, and thought I would get him in the third.

Things started well. He takes the first 40 pages and then…


He doesn’t appear again until the last couple of chapters, and only has a couple more pages of narration.

This was a disappointment for me back then, and a disappointment for me now.

I think Darren Shan didn’t like him as much as Al Jeery.

Reading his author notes I found the original plan was for Capac to have no pages of narration at all. Only for an editor to change his mind.

At least there’s that.

Sum up

This leads to my one big criticism for me. All three books of this series were great – I would read them again. But they never lived up to the first book for me. I loved Capac and wanted to see more of him but, alas, I will have to make do.

In any case, all three of these books I gave a four/five on Goodreads.

So I can’t have been that disappointed.

Next Up

Come with me, back in time.

No, no, not that far.

Oh God, you’ve been beheaded.

Well for those still with us we’re in 1890, where Sherlock Holmes is about to take on one of his most deadly cases.

It’s the House of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz (also follow up, Moriarty).

See you then.

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: Quantum of SolaceMan vs Bookshelf: Horowitz’s Holmes >>
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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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