Sorry this is a little late this time round, folks! London Book Fair got in the way! But here it is, finally, part 10 of the mammoth Skyscraper Throne reread as we build up to the release of Our Lady of the Streets. Beware, if you’re reading along, there are spoilers. Massive thank you goes out to Shaheen @speconspecfic.com for last week’s instalment!
Hello!! Jo Fletcher Books is holding a re-read of The Skyscraper Throne series by Tom Pollock in anticipation of the third book in the series, Our Lady of the Streets. This week I get to host it, and recap Chapters 37 – 41. Let’s begin with a little information about the book:
Expelled from school, betrayed by her best friend and virtually ignored by her dad, who’s never recovered from the death of her mum, Beth Bradley retreats to the sanctuary of the streets, looking for a new home. What she finds is Filius Viae, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London, who opens her eyes to the place she’s never truly seen. But the hidden London is on the brink of destruction.
Reach, the King of the Cranes, is a malign god of demolition, and he wants Filius dead. In the absence of the Lady of the Streets, Filius’ goddess mother, Beth rouses Filius to raise an alleyway army, to reclaim London’s skyscraper throne for the mother he’s never known. Beth has almost forgotten her old life – until her best friend and her father come searching for her, and she must choose between the streets and the life she left behind.
This is the first of a series, an urban fable about friends, family and monsters, and how you can’t always tell which is which.
“The irony of praying to a Goddess they’d rejected even as they stood in the ruins of her temple almost made Petris smile.”
The Pavement Priests have a funeral for their fallen. Petris feels guilty for not having joined the cause, even though he hates the Goddess and won’t fight her war for her. The Goddess sold their deaths with the “oil-slicked traders”, enslaved the Pavement Priests.
A poignant and unsettling chapter that gives readers the sense that there’s a lot more to come from the Pavement Priests.
“All she could see was her best friend, bound and bloodied by the barbed wire.”
Beth has just seen Pen and found out she’s a prisoner of the Wire Mistress. Having seen, for the first time, the real horrors this war against Reach will bring, Beth regrets asking Fil “Is that your plan? Run?”
“She wished she’d let him save himself.” Beth think she’s led both Pen and Fil into danger. “That’s me: a siren call to self-destruction.”
Ezekiel sets her straight, she’s taking the agency away from the soldiers and diminishing their sacrifice – they each made the decision and fought in the battle. They followed Beth because she’s right, and they would have followed anyone else had they also been right.
This chapter made me think a lot, because Beth has a tendency to internalise everything and make everything that happens her own fault. She needed to be brought back down to earth, and be reminded that this war was probably going to happen, it just may not have happened so quickly.
“Walk into the Demolition Fields looking for a happy ending and an ending is all you’ll find.”
Beth wants to see Filius and Gutterglass takes her to him. Beth has decided to go and rescue Pen, go into the heart of Reach’s territory. Glas tries to stop her, Electra has just died and Fil loves Beth, “For the love he bore you, I’ll ask this once. Don’t go.” But of course, Beth is still gong, because Fil has Glas, and Glas has the army, but Pen has no one except Beth. Glas gives Beth Fil’s spear, and tells her to drive it into the Crane King’s throat, if the opportunity arises. Beth kisses Fil’s forehead, and reminds him that she saved his life and not to squander the chance she gave him, and that she’ll try to do the same.
Another poignant chapter, with Beth leaving behind everything that’s familiar to her in the new world she’s found, to go off and confront danger alone. I never thought she’d be standing idly by while Fil fount his war, but I also didn’t think she’d take over for him. The story has morphed from being a bout a girl who helps a boy in his fight, to a story about a girl who fights for the boy when he can’t.
“She didn’t want to want it, but Pen wanted to see Reach stand.”
This chapter begins with another hallucination by Pen, where Beth comes and rescues her from her family’s attempt to marry her off even though she’s physically and emotionally damaged. Pen has conflicted feelings about Beth – she’s only in this mess because she was looking for Beth, and she’s a little angry at Beth for not “killing the host”, because that would have been a way to escape her imprisonment. Pen is finding it hard to focus, she admits to not thinking about escape for hours at a time, and that she’s assimilating the thoughts and desires of the Wire Mistress. She caves the hunt, she wants to kill, she’s excited to see Reach come into being.
This chapter highlights how dire Pen’s situation is. She’s slowly becoming a part of the Wire Mistress. It’s pretty terrifying, when you think about it.
These four chapters are quite poignant – in the lull after the dramatic battle, Pollock takes stock of where his characters are both physically and emotionally. Flilius is injured and unconscious, Beth is guilt-ridden and anxious to help Pen, the Pavement Priests mourn their dead and the rest of the army has set to work helping the wounded. Pen is falling deeper and deeper into the enemies hands.
This pause feels short-lived – it’s a brief hush before the next encounter, but it’s powerful all the same because it allows readers to process what has already happen, and to think about the ramifications of this battle.
Beth knew she was going into a war, and even though she’s seen some horrible things throughout life, she’s just seen people being killed. It’s addled her a little, and now she’s desperate to do anything she can to prove to herself that she’s not a destructive force, and that she is helping, rather than hindering, the war effort.