This August Jo Fletcher Books is publishing the final instalment in Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne trilogy, Our Lady of the Streets and to get ready for it, they’ve organised a massive reread for the first two books, The City’s Son and The Glass Republic. It’s no secret I adore these books and I’m eagerly awaiting the concluding volume to find out how Beth and Pen’s story ends. So I’m really pleased to be part of this reread and today I’ll be your host to the recap and discussion for the relatively short chapters 41-44. Remember, this is a reread, so there will be spoilers galore coming up, so as the lady says SPOILERS!
But first the story so far:
After having been betrayed by her best friend and expelled from school, Beth flees her unhappy home life with a dad who’s still lost to his grief over the death of Beth’s mum. On the streets she encounters Filius Viae, the Son of the Streets, child of Mater Viae, a goddess long-disappeared from her London turf. Filius must now battle Mater Viae’s ancient enemy, the Crane King Reach, all alone with only the help of his foster parent Gutterglas, a garbage spirit. Beth throws in her lot with Fil’s and together they set about gathering an army, which doesn’t go smoothly. To make Beth more capable of defending herself against Reach, Filius bargains with the Chemical Synod to change her to be more like him, a true Child of the Streets.
Meanwhile, Beth’s dad Paul and her best friend Pen have gone searching for Beth and Pen was taken as a host by The Wire Mistress, one of Reach’s most powerful minions. Paul is now looking for both Beth and Pen by following the trail of Beth’s art through London. During the first big battle of the book, Beth has discovered Pen’s predicament, resulting in a seriously wounded Filius. In the aftermath of the battle we see the army regroup and Beth decides to move against Reach and save Pen on her own…
‘Rally. Your. Troops.’
Chapter 41 opens with a very hung-over Petris, who has spent the previous night over ‘devotions’ being woken by Beth. This time we see Beth through Petris’ eyes and we feel her drive and desire to save both Filius and Pen in her strident attempts to rally him and his fellow Pavement Priests back to Filius’ cause. Beth also articulates something that has been looming around in the background for the entire novel:
‘Just as well,’ she said coldly, ‘because she’s not coming back.’
And with that truth about Mater Viae out in the open, Petris is finally able to stand with Filius. But Beth can’t wait for him to convince the other, she’s off to rescue Pen.
‘People believe the story,’ Glas had said, ‘not the facts.’
In chapter 42 we track Beth across the city on her way to Reach’s domain. During this journey it becomes clear that Beth is truly more part of the secret London than part of ours. I found the way Beth is actually noticed by more people the closer she comes to Reach an interesting image in two ways. First, it shows that the prosperous and covetous a person is, the closer they will be to Reach and as such his influence might make them more aware of his enemies. Second, the way Beth goes from ignored to unseen to stared at – and presumably disapproved of – while she travels through the different areas and social strata is a reminder of the amount of social commentary encapsulated in the narrative. When Beth arrives at St. Paul’s she finally realises how scared she is.
‘My, my, what a mess.’
With chapter 43 we move back to Filius, who is reliving his near-drowning in a dream and in the dream reveals the price he paid for Beth’s transformation. The nature of the price only strengthens the hypothesis about Mater Viae’s fate. The fact that he kept the price a secret also shows that Filius is well aware of Beth’s tendency to blame herself for everything.
When Filius wakes up, he argues with Glas when he discovers Beth has gone to confront Reach alone. He blames Gutterglas and tells them he should have stopped her, not given her the idea that she might succeed. Glas reveals that Beth isn’t as alone as she and Filius both think: Victor has followed her. Filius is still furious with Glas and also realises how much Beth means to him.
‘Do more. Do more than just run.’
Beth arrives at the edge of Reach’s domain at the start of chapter 44 and loses her nerves at the sight of the scaffolding surrounding the perimeter, reminded of the lethal Scaffwolves she encountered during the battle. In this very short chapter – three pages all told – Pollock shows us the core of Beth’s drive and her inner turmoil at what she’s demanding of herself. He shows the true extent of her bravery.
After scolding herself for even hesitating, Beth sets off to climb the scaffolding surrounding Reach only to be grabbed by the ankle…
And that is it for this week. Be sure to check out the JFB blog for next week’s chapters and I’m looking forward to being your host again in two weeks when I’ll be recapping and discussing chapters 52-56. See you then!