A graffiti artist finds purpose in this most urban of urban fantasies.
Beth, 16, flees expulsion, a broken friendship and a dysfunctionally grieving father straight into the arms of a ragged warrior. Filius Viae is the Son of the Streets, the only child of the goddess London. Filius was born into an eternal battle between the spirits of the city and their nemesis, the god of ceaseless growth. Beth joins the battle out of restlessness, but she stays for herself and her growing love for this strange other London of weevils and cockroaches, Pylon Spiders and feuding Lampfolk. The richly drawn setting evokes China Miéville's Un Lun Dun (2007); though Beth isn't as richly drawn as UnLondon's Deeba, she has her own scruffy charm. Her victories come through cocksure bravado, boldfaced cheek and the assurance that she's got nothing to lose. Beth's coming-of-age is presented in uneven, symbolic prose that sometimes overreaches, littering her tale with overwrought metaphor, but it also rises to poetry in its loving affection for London's filth and scars. A slow and dragging buildup is redeemed not just by the well-paced climax, but by the emerging heroism of the most unexpected characters.
Ultimately, the density of this series opener pays off; the countless little details culminate in a satisfying resolution with no destined heroes, only individuals struggling along the best they can. (Fantasy. 13-16)