City of Night, Vol. II in the House Wars series, Michelle West. DAW.
Reviewed by Marsha Sisolak.
Michelle West (aka Michelle Sagara) is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read a number of her series, but my favorite book by far was her first in The House Wars series: The Hidden City.
City of Night is the second in that series. I ordered it the second it was available, and the tale continues with Jewel Markess and her den’s adventures. Some of their journey takes place in the undercity referred to by the title of the first book; quite a lot of it takes place above ground, between the twenty-fifth and thirty-fifth holdings. In the opening book, the city of Averalaan was dangerous, with the undercity appearing somewhat less so. In this book, the threats for Jewel and her den increase. Lack of money and another den ready for revenge are only two of them, and there is no place to hide now. The undercity paths have turned treacherous and no one—not Jewel, not her fellow den members, and certainly not Rath, her protector—find safety below.
Michelle Sagara makes a reader care about her characters. Jewel’s young, perhaps twelve, and Rath is significantly older and more experienced. He takes her under his wing and trains her (and then members of the den as they arrive) against his better judgment in the first book. I fell in love with Jewel and Rath then, and could not wait to continue reading about them when I’d finished.
But the long prologue to City of Night introduces Angel, an orphan and soon-to-be member of Jay’s den, and his father’s mission that Angel might choose to take on: to find a worthy lord. It took me a few pages to get over my disappointment that I was not immediately thrust back into Jewel’s Averalaan and its hundred holdings that I’d remembered.
Still, the author’s ability to make me care won me over long before that almost sixty-page prologue ended. And, even though it wasn’t Jewel on the dock waiting for the ship from the North, I was immersed in the port and the Port Authority, a section of Averalaan I had not seen in the earlier book. For another thing that Michelle West does exceedingly well is world building and setting.
I believe in this city, the peoples that fill it, lords and mages, the poverty-worn lower classes and vicious dens that populate the holdings, and the demons that walk its streets.
Although there is a lot to love about this book—including the expansion of character points of view with Angel’s and the other den members’—it’s definitely a middle book. While Jewel and the remnants of her den are able to reach Rath’s sister for protection, a demon follows her to the Terafin’s manse and attacks the Terafin.
The conflict between gods and demons and humans has begun. It will take another book or two to resolve that.
Don’t begin the series with this book unless you are prepared to read carefully. The number of point of view characters might baffle some. My recommendation is to read the first, fall in love with Jewel and Rath, Jewel’s den and their world as I did, and then read the second.
Currently, I think this one falls a little short in comparison to The Hidden City, which was a phenomenal read, but I’m perfectly willing to hold my final opinion until the next book comes out.
And I’ll let you know how well it succeeds after I gulp the third—which simply can’t be published fast enough for me.