City of Halves by Lucy Inglis
Published by ChickenHouse, an Imprint of Scholastic, October 27, 2015. Hardcover of 368 pages at $17.99. Intended for ages 12 and up, grades 7 and up.
Note: I read an advance copy so anything may have changed by publication.
The cover: An eerie green smoke swirls across the cover, capturing in profile the book’s leads, Regan and Lily. Below them is the classic landscape by the Thames, complete with Big Ben. This cover was created by Nina Goffi and studiohelen.co.uk and it captures the mysterious nature of this pair and their adventures in London. This cover exemplifies the word mood. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the inside front cover, “Vanishing act. London. Present day. Girls are disappearing. And strange things are roaming the streets. When sixteen-year-old Lily is attacked by a two-headed dog, she’s saved by hot, tattooed, and not-quite-human Regan. As Guardian of the Gates, it’s his job to protect both halves of the City — new and old — from restless creatures that threaten its very existence. But an influx of these mythological beasts has Regan worried that something terrible — and immense — is about to happen. The missing girls may have something to do with the monsters wandering around London, but what do they have in common? Can Lily and Regan find the girls and discover the truth in time to save London from being torn apart?” This is a solid premise, girl meets dream boy who’s a hero and they have to save others, combining fantasy characters with modern day London. This has promise. Overall grade: A
The characters: Lily Hilyard is a 16 year-old computer genius who helps her lawyer father by skimming the Internet, getting information that her “old” man cannot. She’s very smart and provides Regan with information and access to the modern world’s sources, and she’s instantly smitten with the boy. The danger he puts himself in worries her, and she lets him know this. However, she doesn’t let her feelings for Regan get in the way of her helping others, be they human or something else, or in finding out the truth about her mother. Lily is a terrific protagonist, who’s not the action girl like Katniss, but is more than willing to get herself into a situation if it has a possibility of revealing some iota of information. Regan is the traditional tall, hunky hero, who keeps information to himself to protect Regan, though she, and the reader, know that he’s doing so. Not much is revealed about him for some time, though he’s practically immortal and is the sole Guardian of the Gates, killing creatures that are creeping into modern London. It’s questionable if he feels for Lily the way she feels for him, but this is answered by the book’s end. His backstory is fairly easy to glean with clues given as the book progresses and he was a fun character. There are several supernatural characters that cause trouble for the leads, though the big bad of the book is Ellis, a man in a suit. People wearing suits are often untrustworthy in books, and Ellis certainly is. Every time he pops up he tries to kidnap Lily, but she can’t figure out why. His backstory is revealed late in the book and it’s excellent; who he is effects both protagonists. The supporting characters are strong in this book, especially the supernatural ones who aid the leads. Saying who, and what, they are would spoil them, but the couple were my favorites. Overall grade: A
The settings: Present day London is the setting. It’s everything a reader would expect, just not to be populated by the supernatural with all sorts of creatures running about it. Inglis nicely makes this a city where something surprising could be hiding behind every corner, and often is. Again, to avoid spoilers, the scenes involving water were my favorites, though a close runner up would be the villains’ base in the book’s climax. The descriptions Inglis gives to each location are crystal clear. Overall grade: A
The action: There’s a quite a bit of action in this book, begat by creatures fantastic and humans with a deadly purpose. Several times action occurs away from Lily, so she gets to see Regan after the fact, but this still keeps the tension high, for the reader will be supposing, and rightly so, that other creatures are running amok that Lupescar couldn’t take down. There is a terrific action sequence that begins with one set of villains but quickly changes once a dragon reveals itself. The mystery of Lily’s past also creates a strong sense of tension that comes with her getting herself into terrible situations. The action is very strong in this book. Overall grade: A
The conclusion: There’s an ending, but it’s extremely open for a sequel. Many issues are resolved, though those that aren’t are left dangling for more adventures. I’ve said in other reviews that I wish books didn’t leave themselves so open for obvious sequels, but this was so enjoyable, I was happy to see that the adventures would continue. Overall grade: A-
The final line: A fantastic pair does battle with supernatural creatures, while dodging humans with a sinister goal. Excellent characters propel this above other young adult lit. I’m hoping there’s more to come from Ms. Inglis in her chronicles of Lily and Regan. Recommended. Overall grade: A