From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Book Review: City Without End

Kay Kenyon [http://www.kaykenyon.com] returns to The Entire and the Rose with the third volume, City Without End. Titus Quinn chose to not use the “chain” which he was told would destroy the machine at Ahnenhoon (the one which threatened his world) but would have instead destroyed The Entire. Instead, Titus bluffed the Tarig lords into standing down and has to hold the bluff in City Without End. Meanwhile — because there is always a meanwhile — Helice Maki has aligned with Titus’ estranged daughter Sidney, becoming a potential power in The Entire.

The aims of Helice and Titus are at odds. Naturally. Also, the leadership of Minerva, the company for which Titus nominally works, is secretly seeking to send over a colony and let the Rose (Earth) be destroyed by the Tarig. To say there is a lot going on here would be a severe understatement.

Even though City Without End is chock full of story and detail, Kay Kenyon never overwhelms the reader. She blends plot and conspiracy with action that crosses two worlds in a blended science fiction / fantasy setting that could almost be real. It feels real. Though humans do reside in The Entire, their customs and those of the Tarig lords come across as alien yet authentic. The motivations of the Tarig never quite make sense to the human characters because the humans can never fully understand them. Kay Kenyon never forgets that the Tarig are not humans in big lizard armor and her novels are all the stronger because of it.

The accomplishment of City Without End is an audacious one. Just as A World Too Near changed the expectations of what The Entire and The Rose was about, City Without End once again shifts the landscape of what can possibly happen next. Moreover, City Without End changes what is possible in this world(s). The audacious part is the ease with which Kay Kenyon changes the shape of the series and the expectations of the reader. Assuming, of course, the reader was foolish enough to come into this volume thinking she knew what was coming. That’s the best thing here, besides Kenyon’s beautiful writing, excellent plotting, deft characterization, and strong storytelling…besides all of that, everything we know is wrong.

Oh, this isn’t to say that what came before is false, but rather what came before doesn’t account for the varying actions of the characters themselves and how those actions will influence the plans of the others. It’s a vicious and beautiful circle.

City Without End is to be admired and appreciated. It is to be enjoyed. City Without End is one hell of a novel. It is better than the A World Too Near, which in turn was better than Bright of the Sky. That would be saying something if the series did not start out strong. Since Bright of the Sky was a strong opening volume, it marks City Without End as something special. Truly, this is a series that demands to be read. Only, be sure to start at the beginning. You don’t want to miss a word.

City Without End, Kay Kenyon, Pyr: 2009

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