Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock (#3 in the Skyscraper Throne trilogy) (Jo Fletcher Books, 7 August 2014)
Our Lady of the Streets is the third and final book in the Skyscraper Throne trilogy. If you haven't read the first two, what are you doing? GO READ THEM NOW.
In Our Lady of the Streets, the goddess of London, Mater Viae, has come back. She has made the city sick, killing many of its citizens in the process. The streets are fevering, and Beth and Pen are in the middle of it all. The two of them must find a way to stop Mater Viae from destroying the whole city: but how can they fight against the goddess of London herself, and why is the goddess even doing this to her own city?
So, I'm sad that this series has come to an end, but Tom Pollock is a god, and I will buy everything he ever writes in the future. Because Our Lady of the Streets was an intense and beautiful end to the trilogy, taking all the threads from the previous two books and weaving them together in surprising ways to give them new meaning and emotional impact. Plus, this series has the best portrayal of a female friendship I've ever seen. And the best female character.
Pen is, for me, the eternal star of this series. In the first book, Beth was definitely the main character, and though Pen didn't get that much screen time (or page time), it was already clear to me that Pen was my favourite–which was why I was so delighted when the second book had Pen as its main character. This third book, I'm happy to report, has equal amounts of Beth and Pen, and their friendship was at the very core of the story. It was amazing. I love that so much. I honestly don't know if I've ever read a book where it really felt like the friendship between two female characters was honestly the central relationship and so integral to everything that goes on in the story as well. Beth and Pen are best friends, and that matters a great deal. They care deeply about each other. Even as all this war and destruction and death is happening around them, I love that Pollock always took the time to show them supporting each other and having emotional conversations that need to be had. It's something I feel like I rarely see in other books featuring so much fighting and death. Just two best friends, talking to each other and challenging each other and being there for each other, constantly. Pushing each other to do the things that need to be done.
Most of the most moving and breathtaking moments in the book are Pen's moments, though I'm possibly very biased. Her arc is absolutely mindblowingly incredible. I know I said pretty much the same thing about the second book in the series, but seriously. Pen faces her deepest fears in this book. She goes back to everything that's ever hurt her and she confronts her own feelings of anger and terror and helplessness, and she is so, so powerful. When I think 'strong female character', I think Pen. Her vulnerability, her trauma, the many awful ways she has been hurt, and the way she takes this horrifying past and stares it down and says to it, "no, I own you now", even as she's trembling all the while, because the fear is never going to quite leave her. Because she's real and human and she loves her best friend and the world needs saving and she chooses the danger, she chooses the fear, so that she can stand by her best friend's side and fight.
I honestly think Pen might now be my favourite female character ever.
The romance in this book takes a backseat, but what's there is really interesting. I really appreciated the fact that Beth and Pen's friendship really was the primary relationship in this book, but I guess it might have been nice to see fuller development on the romance front. Beth and Filius' story played out in a very unexpected way that was more bitter than sweet throughout most of the book, whereas Pen and Espel's relationship had the luxury of being a little more straightforward and they were really quite adorable.
The ending is wonderful and so smart and I seriously admire Pollock so much for writing it. I've always felt that this series was one of the cleverest things I've ever read. And at the end it all falls into place and it all makes sense and it's so thrilling and touching at the same time. All the relationships in this book, the familial ones and the romantic ones and that friendship between Beth and Pen, they're all there, their meanings in Beth and Pen's lives interwoven into an astonishing web of emotion that gives both characters the perfect ending for who they are and who they have become over the course of the series.
I will miss Beth and Pen, but I honestly can't wait for whatever Tom Pollock has in store for us next.