Those Above - Daniel Polansky

I picked up a copy of Those Above as the result of two factors: firstly, that my local library branch had a copy in stock when I went in to collect something else and, secondly, that I'd enjoyed a previous book by this author (Low Town, the first of a series, which reminds me I've yet to read the rest of those books...).

 

Anyway, back to Those Above. Our basic premise is that the world is inhabited firstly by Those Above - a four-finger race who are like humans but pretty much human+ - and humanity itself. A while back, during the last effort of Those Above to maintain their rulership of humanity, one of our protagonists had been the first human ever to kill one of their kind, but there's still a significant part of the world under their rule.

 

In particular, they live in a place called the Roost, a city built in layers (which seems to be a quite familiar theme popping up in fantasy books nowadays) where a strict hierarchical way of living sees the inhabitants at the top almost becoming myth to those lower down. One of our other protagonists is a servant there, while another is a teenage boy trying to make his way in one of the lower rungs, by means of a mixture of anger and violence. To round it off, we also have one of the unsung rulers of another human kingdom, a woman who wants to rule and doesn't see why anyone should get in her way. 

 

This is the first of a two-book series and, sadly, one of the problems with it is how very little actually happens to propel the plot forward in 400 pages. We see preparations for a war that has yet to happen, the internal machinations of a would-be empress and disillusionment for those who live in the Roost, regardless of their level. But that's pretty much it and it takes a long time to happen. In all honesty, if my library didn't also have a copy of Those Below, I probably wouldn't bother and would definitely recommend Low Town as a more interesting read for anyone who wants to know what this author can do.