A City Dreaming. Book Review

A CITY DREAMING by Daniel Polansky
Hodder & Stoughton. h/b. 304pp. £18.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

M is lucky. Things always seem to go his way. That is what comes of being favourably looked upon by the Management. He doesn’t quite know how it works but it works in his favour, so he doesn’t think about it too much. As long as you do not step too far over the line and upset the Management you are generally fine. It looks as though someone nearby might be about to, though, and M realises it is about time he went home.

New York is home. Home for M, his friends, those he doesn’t consider to be quite so friendly, and for two opposing matriarchs who control part of the city each and who both want control of the rest. M helps when he needs to, when he feels he should, but the rest of the time he contents himself with a good drink or a good time.

Once again Polansky delivers something entirely new and removed from his previous series’. The high fantasy world of The Empty Throne is nowhere in sight and only the grit of the city and the lyrical quality of Low Town are echoed here. From the opening you know that the author has produced something captivating in A City Dreaming, as the reader is invited to experience life in the footsteps of M and his acquaintances.

M’s adventures are delivered in short, exciting and strange bursts. Those seeking a firm narrative structure, genre tropes, magic systems, big action scenes, etc., etc. will not find it here. There is little to none of the traditional or expected… Except pirates. And monsters. And an apprentice, despite M’s attempts to discourage him.

From Paris to New York and on into the bizarre and fantastical, reality is cleverly nudged aside or suspended as appropriate to blend M’s strange and somewhat implausible encounters into the familiar fabric of our cities. This is noir urban fantasy – if you insist on defining it – but wondrously different to anything else, and above all delivered with such tremendous control over language and such sparkling humour that you cannot help but be drawn into the journey and love every extraordinary moment of it.