Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.
As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.
All good things must come to an end, so it was inevitable that Tom Pollock’s debut series would end too. After the fantastic The City’s Son and the equally wonderful The Glass Republic, this final instalment in the trilogy Our Lady of the Streets came with high expectations and had to meet a high standard to equal its predecessors. Happily, Our Lady of the Streets is even better than the previous books. It takes Beth, Pen, and all their allies on a wild ride trying to save the city they love and their own lives in the process. Since this is book three in a series it’s hard to review it without giving any spoilers for the previous books. I’m keeping them to a minimum, but you have been warned.
Where the previous books were mostly about Beth and Pen separately, Our Lady of the Streets is definitely their story together. I loved the interplay between Beth and Pen in The City’s Son and always felt somehow cheated we didn’t get more of it. In this book Pollock gives it to the reader in spades. Their friendship is really the heart of the series. In fact, I’d argue this series is about their friendship more than anything. I love that in Beth and Pen we have two best friends who are there for each other through everything and even if they argue, they find their way back to each other. There is not cattiness, no bitchiness, and no going after the other’s romantic prospects. It’s rare to find this sort of friendship between girls in books and I wish we’d get more of them.
With the return of the Mirror Mater to London, Beth needs to step up and lead. London is under siege and only Beth will be able to stop Mater Viae from taking power. To do this she needs to learn what exactly her transformation means and what powers, if any, come with it. Pollock not only gives Beth new strengths, he also adds new weaknesses and shows just how painful being a leader in what is essentially war time is. He shows how hard Beth takes her losses and how much she just wants to protect her loved ones by keeping them out of the line of fire. Yet in the end, Beth learns you can’t control people’s choices and they have the right to choose to be part of the fight. In Our Lady of the Streets Beth becomes somewhat of a tragic hero, albeit in true Beth Bradley-style, with the expected amount of snark and humour. There are also clear echoes to The City’s Son in the book, sometimes mirroring the events and in some cases using it as a contrast. It’s an elegant use of foreshadowing and one that is entirely fitting, yet unexpected.
Pen meanwhile is back down the rabbit hole and trying to survive and reconnect with Espel. While it would have been easy for Pen to have slipped into just a sidekick role to Beth, she because anything but. Her choices are her own and she has to make some hard decisions. From the previous books we knew Pen was brave, but just how courageous she is, becomes clear from the choices she makes and the allies she manages to recruit to their cause at great personal cost. I loved Pen’s arc in this novel, perhaps even more than Beth’s. Pollock not only addresses Pen’s fear of coming out to her parents, he also returns to the trauma of her sexual assault and what sort of effect having to keep that secret had on her. I really liked how Pollock handled it and the resolution to this storyline.
After having built two equally fascinating but very different worlds in the first two books with Beth’s magical London and London-Under-Glass, in Our Lady of the Streets Pollock not only merges those two, but also adds another layer. With Mirror Mater’s return a number of new and destructive phenomena have arisen. She induces Fever streets, Tideways, Blank Streets and pretty much wrecks the city as we know it at will. The presence of this other, magical London is far more invasive than in previous books where the strange and magical was pushed to the fringes of mundane awareness or to a different realm altogether. Yet in this last book it is present front and centre and even the mundane citizens of London – and the rest of the world for that matter – can no longer ignore the other side of London. I loved the illness metaphor for the Mirrored Goddess’ campaign to retake London and how Pollock incorporated this into the plot.
As I told the author on Twitter, after I finished the book: “my heart is in a thousand pieces and yet you left me with hope.” Our Lady of the Streets is a fantastic conclusion to an extraordinary series. Tom Pollock has proven he’s incredibly talented and I’m really excited to see where he’ll go next, even if I’m sad to be saying goodbye to Beth and Pen. If you haven’t yet read this conclusion to The Skyscraper Throne, what are you waiting for? If you’ve not yet picked up this series, I highly recommend that you do. It’s one of my favourite series of the last few years and one you shouldn’t miss.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.