Book Review 2009 #20: City Without End

City Without End is the third in the “Entire and the Rose” quartet by Kay Kenyon.


City Without End picks up where the (to me) disappointing second novel, A World Too Near leaves off. Titus Quinn has lost his wife, but did not destroy all of the Entire with the nanotech given to him for that very purpose. Helice Maki is free to scheme and seek her own goals. Sydney, Titus’ estranged daughter, is now known as Sen Ni, continues her secret insurgency against the Tarig overlords. And then there is Ji Anzi, Chalin native of the Entire, who has given her heart to the man from Earth, Titus Quinn. Her journey is the most expansive, and surprised me as to where it led…
And speaking of Earth, things on Earth for Titus’ extended family grow ever dicier as the stakes continue to raise, as the brightest star in Earth’s sky is extinguished in the Tarig’s quest to keep the Entire alive…
New readers to the city, like in most series, should definitely not start here.
If the quartet can be thought of as a chess game, the first novel introduced (most of) the major participants, the board and the milieu and the opening moves. The second novel expanded on this, but in a way that I felt recapitulated some of the weaknesses in second, middle novels in series. It is in this third novel, though, that things really start to accelerate. Plans, gambits, plots and secrets all move in a well orchestrated and naturally-flowing order. There are surprises, reverses and reveals that bring back the strength of the first novel, and just possibly, exceed them.
The environment and the science fantasy environment, which I do not lightly compare to the late Philip J Farmer’s World of Tiers is, for me the highlight of these novels. Kenyon adds a couple of wrinkles to this environment which I only lament that she could have shown *more* of. The Entire is a fully envisioned artificial world that is simultaneously a BDO (Big Dumb Object), a universe of its own, and an expansive canvas to set her story.
However, for those of you who rely on well drawn characters for your reading satisfaction, rest assured, the characters are well formed and human, with all of the contradictions and confused natures that humans have. There are precious few one-note or one-dimensional characters here
The end of the novel is not a cliffhanger, but it sets up the factions in both the Entire and the Rose (Earth) for what I hope will be a finale and capstone worthy of the remainder of the series.
I highly enjoyed City Without End and will without reservation, buy the fourth and final volume, in hardcover, when it comes out. As I have said elsewhere, do start with the first book. BRIGHT OF THE SKY, and immerse yourself into the Entire yourself.