From debut author Johnson comes a fantasy novel about a city and those who must protect it.
With “nearly a million residents,” No-Gu is a place with its share of problems and peculiarities. From addicts hooked on the dangerous Agess seed to buildings constructed of ebon stone, which is so hard it cannot be altered, the city lacks much in the way of contemporary comparison. Like all cities though, there is a great need for security. As an Alley Rat, Mor ARU Mathiis is a man responsible for such security. Charged with patrolling “the streets of No-Gu quelling disputes and doling out punishment when necessary,” men like Mor, aka Teacher, are soldiers who don’t associate much with army regulars. In constant danger, Alley Rats need to be tough, quick, and unrelenting. After terrifying beasts attack the city, Teacher must find and destroy the “one that controls them.” The task may be perilous and involves delving into Chatlahe, an ancient culture. The reward is advancement for all Alley Rats. Teaming up with fellow men at arms Ten Crow and Notch, the stage is set for an exploration of No-Gu’s murkier regions. Scenes can be violent, with characters “rummaging through the blood soaked clothing,” and graphic: “The twisting veins of his biceps bulged as he…ravaged her anus with violent, upward thrusts.” The novel also offers anthropological details, like the description of the Oskell, who “believed themselves superior to all other races because of their ability to heal.” Occasional statements can prove less than profound, such as when a character is said to have “closed his eyes to stop the hint of a tear that threatened to escape”; however, readers taken with Teacher and his struggles will enjoy following his meandering path.
Part thriller, part invented cultural study, the book provides an unusual setting and a rough-and-tumble lead.