Review: So Below: Key to the City by Matt Whyman

So BelowSo Below: Key to the City (aka Street Runners, I think?) by Matt Whyman
Publication: Simon & Schuster Children’s (September 5, 2005), Paperback, 144 pages / ISBN 068987264X
Genre: Paranormal/Sci-Fi, YA
Rating:
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Read: September 2009
First sentence: Let’s drop through winter clouds one night in the Year of the Snake, until London takes shape on the ground.

In one sentence: Good story, unfortunately let down by the writing.

Found this discounted somewhere a few months ago, and the summary sufficiently lured me in enough to read it. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t left completely satisfied, either.

Summary from Amazon:

In a bid to escape from a mysterious pursuer, Yoshi takes refuge below the streets of London – and finds a world away from our own. Here, in this sprawling, multi-layered network of tunnels, panic rooms, vaults, catacombs and lost waterways, he discovers his own vital part in a mission to tap into ancient forces underpinning the capital.

I liked the story, mostly. Underground cities are always interesting to me, and there were some really exciting bits near the end that made the beginning bearable. But I had a lot of trouble connecting with any of the characters, I think because there wasn’t a whole lot of time spent on character development in this book. It’s the first of a series, however, so I’m assuming that things will become more detailed as the overarching plot progresses. But it doesn’t make for a fantastic first book.

So Below: Key to the City written in present tense, which makes everything seem really immediate and fast-paced– after getting used to it. Unfortunately I think it made the writing come off a little awkward as well, and things like dialogue and descriptions of emotions tended to sound fake or forced. The writing also sometimes got into ridiculous near-purple prose territory. Annoying! It was kind of like watching an amateur gymnast on a balance beam: the writing fell off more than it stayed on, but it tried its best.

What I liked best, and why I kept reading, was how the narrative went above the streets instead of sticking below it. Yoshi is a parkour artist, and I haven’t read a book with one of those, like, ever. It was a special little something that sparked my interest, and as much as I love books with secret underground cities, I think I love books with parkour in them even more.

I’m not entirely sure I’m going to read any of the other books. The writing is just not something that I’m into, and even though the story is interesting I don’t care enough about any of the characters to want to know what happens to them. I think I’d only read the next book to see if Yoshi does anymore parkour, but that’s not enough of a reason for me.

I know I’ve probably made it sound really bad, but it’s honestly not horrible. It just has a few problems, and if you can ignore or get over those problems there’s a truly interesting plot at the core.

Find out for yourself! Get your own copy from Amazon or your favorite indie bookstore.

Other reviews: Have you written a review for this? Let me know and I’ll link to it in this post!

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