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City of Night: A Novel of The House War    by Michelle West order for
City of Night
by Michelle West
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Michelle West's City of Night follows The Hidden City as the second in her series, The House War, set in the same sophisticated world (and overlapping in characters) as her excellent Sacred Hunt and Sun Sword series. In West's world, god-born and demons walk alongside humans in various well conceived societies, whose underlying codes of conduct are often in conflict.

The first two House War episodes have both been set in the slums of Averalaan, capital of the Northern Empire. They reveal the early life of Jewel 'Jay' Markess, a young woman with a shining compassion for others, who (by the end of City of Night) will become Jewel a'Terafin. Seer-born Jewel, who has visions of the future, was strongly influenced by her southern Oma (grandmother). Orphaned, she caught the attention of Ararath (once an aristocratic scion of House Handernesse and brother to Amarais, who now rules House Terafin). A master of disguise, Rath makes his living in the Common, selling artefacts recovered from old tunnels beneath the city.

In The Hidden City, Rath sheltered and taught Jewel, and showed her the Old Weston undercity. Jewel steadily gathered to herself other waifs to join her den. Together they faced a demon - and barely survived. Rath dedicated his life to protecting Jewel and to destroying demons. City of Night opens by filling in a fascinating back story for Angel, who becomes a key member of Jewel's den. Angel's father Garroc was assigned a secret task by Northerner Weyrdon, master of the Ice Wolf - he was 'to find a worthy lord' to lead in a great war that had been foreseen - but died with that task incomplete. Angel hopes to finish his father's life work.

Later (after Angel has joined Jewel), the undercity (where they scavenge for items to sell to Rath to pay for the den's needs) grows steadily more perilous. Fissures widen and children disappear. Rath is badly injured and warns Jay to avoid the underground. But she goes anyway, having little choice. She and Duster find Sleepers, prophesied to awaken at the end of the world - and gods walk. Jay has visions of Rath's death and is desperate to prevent it. Rath makes his own plans with mages Sigurne and Meralonne APhaniel. Den members are lost to the undercity. Jay grieves and her funds run low.

The suspense in City of Night builds gradually to a crescendo as a demon plans to use Rath against his own sister and he nobly chooses his own end. When she knows that what she has long feared has happened, Jay does as her beloved mentor asked of her. She flees with the survivors of her den (a demon in pursuit) to House Terafin, where she finds a place - and strong allies - for herself and those she protects. I'm anxious for more in this brilliant and highly recommended series, which makes me keen to re-read all the Sacred Hunt and Sun Sword books yet again.

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