City of Light. Book Review

colCITY OF LIGHT by Keri Arthur
Piatkus, p/b, 343pp, £7.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

A problem that every successful writer has is the direction their career should take. Authors who create series that is popular want to attract new readers as well as keeping the regulars with them. Keri Arthur is an Australian whose popular Guardian series are set against a near future Melbourne. This imagined world has features common in the novels of several other successful authors in that there are vampires and werewolves whose presence is known and who have rights in law. City of Light takes another approach to the supernatural.

The setting is much further in the future. One hundred and three years ago saw the end of the war between humans and shifters. Though the shifters won, it was not without heavy cost on both sides. New weapons devastated the land and ripped holes in reality. These rifts, which do not usually stay in one place, allow access from another dimension to dangerous creatures and warp any animal or plant caught in them. It is not a place to be out after dark as shadows hide vampires. This species is nasty. Mindless, they devour anything unfortunate to get in their way, even their own kind.

In their attempts to win, the humans experimented with genetic engineering to develop super-soldiers using animal and human DNA. These were known as déchet – which means waste. They were regarded as non-human and at the end of the war, the shifters exterminated them. Or so they thought. The first person narrator survived. Tiger is not a warrior but a lure, designed to seduce the enemy, gain information and kill. She still lives in the bunker where she was created and which was the headquarters of the human army. She shares her home with the ghosts of the déchet who died there, many of them children. Two, Cat and Bear, died in her arms and worry about her. These ghosts are not powerless and when she leaves the bunker Cat and Bear often go with her. She’d rather have a peaceful life but does need to scavenge parts for her life support systems, and food, from the nearby Central, the City of Light – so called because it is brightly lit at night to deter the vampires.

The story starts when Tiger hears the cries of a child in the dark. Because of what happened to the déchet children, she has a compulsion to help. In a dangerous area, she finds a child, Penny, and an injured shifter Ranger, Jonas. While she would have preferred to leave Jonas to the vampires, Penny insists she won’t go without him. Jonas has been poisoned and, according to Penny, the only person that can save him is Nuri who lives in Chaos. This is an area where those who do not qualify for homes in Central live. Not only is it where criminals have made their home but there is no protection from vampires. It is Tiger’s intention to deliver Penny and Jonas, then get the hell out. Then she learns that Penny was one of fourteen children abducted and gets sucked into Nuri’s plan to find out what has happened to them and, hopefully, rescue them.

This novel is different from Arthur’s previous series although there are supernatural elements in it. Here, everyone is suspicious of everyone else – with good reason. Hatred and prejudice have survived on both sides even though more than a century has passed since the end of the war and all of them, including Tiger, find it difficult to trust even though the evidence points to an enemy that has the potential to destroy them all.

There is a lot to like in this novel, though perhaps the powers Arthur gives her characters are a bit too convenient at times. There is though plenty of action and intrigue and the reinforcement that no-one is entirely good, even Tiger. She was created to kill and will do so without conscience if it threatens children or those under her protection. A good start to a new series.