I’m a huge fan of Alan Baxter’s work. His short story collection, Crow Shine, blew me away, as did his recent novella, The Book Club. Alan’s latest book, Hidden City, is quite different and it shows what a talented writer he is. Hidden City blends urban fantasy, noir and horror. If you can imagine James Herbert’s The Fog mixed with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, you will be some way toward understanding where Baxter is coming from.
For me, Hidden City took a little time to warm to. Hines is the main character, a city mage who has a strong link to the city of Cleveport. His powers are pretty limited but they seem to grow as the story continues. I found him to be a little dry and difficult to like early on, which I don’t mind too much, to be honest, but as I progressed I found myself enjoying this character much more. His relationship with Abbey-another central character is great, they bounce off of each other well and have a great chemistry. The city of Cleveport is well drawn by Baxter with several scenes leaving me with similar images to those in neo-noir, sci-fi movie classic Dark City.
The noir elements are particularly strong during the first part of the book as the story turns toward a mystery, crime direction. Things get progressively weirder. The fungal spores growing throughout the city cause havoc amongst the folk of Cleveport, turning them feral. Other characters emerge throughout the book causing further problems. The magical elements are very cool. I love how Hines could talk to the city and as his power grew he was able to manipulate it. Great stuff!
The second half of the book is action-packed and the ending worked really well for me, in fact, I loved it. Alan Baxter continues his good form and Hidden City is a must read for any fans of Alan’s work and definitely for fans of Jim Butcher.
4/5 fungal spores from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.