In a narrative that opens when the first European explorer sighted New York's then uncluttered shoreline, and ends with its current summer festival, the only characters missing are the cockroaches. Ellis manages to include everyone else: Verrazano, Peter Stuyvesant, colonists, slaves, George Washington, British troops, American irregulars, peddlers, the Astors, the Jews and the Irish, the righteous and the corrupt. And all its troubles from street riots, floods, fires and several other disasters including The Great Blizzard and ex-mayor O'Dwyer. This is not history, no, and epic is too ambiguous a term when the heroine is not pure but merely exciting. But although his only connecting device is chronology, Ellis has used a great many source materials and converts them into entertainment so that any lack of scholarship can be forgiven. The insular island of the Manhattoes, Melville's first love, is courted again while Brooklyn and the Bronx take back seats. He's not Lewis Mumford but he talks a good game and this is a gift item, for the region and the residents.