Book Review: City On Fire

City on Fire 1

City on Fire 2

Plot: New York City is falling. Circles loop within circles. Everyone just wants to find the place where they belong, even if that is taking them down routes they never dreamt they would go.

A shooting on New Year’s Eve makes worlds collide. A pebble has been dropped in the pond and those ripples stretch further than anyone can imagine, reaching people who had no idea they were in anyway connected to the event.

Time is running out though. For everyone involved. The world is changing and all anyone can hope is to take back their city and their lives.

City on Fire 3

Quote: `Why must he always be running from some place he never was to some place he’ll never be? What would it take for him to just be where he is? He wants, almost, to be his own ghost, casting his shadow on the little world these other people more in.`

 

Opinion: City on Fire seems to be the book everyone is talking about. For the first time in a while, I have to admit I can see where the hype is coming from. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end – and that is saying something when one considers precisely how long the novel is. As I was reading it on the train, I was certainly glad for the e-book version.

The plot reminds me of a jigsaw puzzle. Each character has their own part to play, their own back story that brings them to the time and place you meet them at in the novel. It is not apparent from the beginning how all of these plots fit together, but they do. They fit together in such a seamless way that the overall picture is clear and unified.

It’s a relatively straight-forward plot when looking at the big picture – everyone is trying to find where they belong. But it is constructed in such a way that it holds your attention the whole way through the novel.

The characters are strong. All of them. Of which there are many. But they work. Hallberg knows how to write flawed and troubled individuals that work their way into the reader’s hearts and lodge there. Even when they are being idiots – William and Charlie – or just trying to find the ones they love – Mercer and Regan- they have this way of making you root for them. This book would have fallen flat – it would have been awful – if the characters hadn’t been so deep and believable.

The writing is strong. It’s straightforward but it’s strong. The length of the book means it has to be – if there was something in the writing style that didn’t work, the book would not have been a success. But Hallberg has a strong style, weaving his narration around the characters and letting them tell the story for him. In the 900 odd pages, none of it felt forced.

A really good book – one that deserves the recognition and hype it is getting. A definite recommendation.

Amazon | Waterstones

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