In City Without End, Kay Kenyon continues to expand and entertain her already lush Entire and the Rose saga. As with many series books, this third volume builds directly off of the events of the previous volume rather seamlessly. The confrontation between Titus Quinn and the Tarig lords who threaten Earth came to a head at the conclusion of the last volume, A World Too Near and much of this novel deals with the fallout of that confrontation.
As with the previous volumes, Kenyon skips around from chapter to chapter focusing on the various people affected by Quinn’s actions, people in both the Entire and the Rose (Earth). One of the aspects about the previous volume I would have liked to see embellished was Quinn’s estranged daughter Sydney who has adopted the name Sen Ni in the Entire’s colloquial as her name to further embody her distance from Earth. Here, Kenyon shows how Sydney has completely enmeshed herself in the politics and climate of the Entire and the distance and time away from her father has affected her. Kenyon sets father and daughter on opposing ends of conflict and the painful tension in their interactions comes through very well.
Our world is featured more prominently in City Without End than in A World Too Near. More of Quinn’s relatives begin to play roles in the escalating tension and foreseeable conflict between the Entire and Earth. Kay seems to delight, or at the very least excel in her portrayal of awkward familial relations. Quinn’s brother Rob is almost a footnote in this volume, but just when I thought this to truly be the case, Kenyon throws a curve-ball. His role is small, but important and the strain that his wife’s affections for Titus place on their marriage is palpable and real.
What really makes this book and series so engaging and rewarding is Kenyon’s ability to contrast the epic planet-wide struggle between Earth and the Entire against the human struggles of Quinn and the other human characters in that vast backdrop. The stakes are as high as possible for Earth. These stakes are endured by the few and are combined with the emotional, personal investment each character has with the other characters (Caitlin’s unrequited love for Titus, Titus’s wish to save his daughter) make for an emotionally charged story. In short, she excellently manages to make the book (and series) feel intimate and Epic.
She manages this intimate feel through the characters who have been built up over the course of the series – Titus’s family back on Earth, the emotional journey in which Titus is partaking in the Entire, Sydney’s growth as a woman of power.
A great deal of tension is also present throughout the novel. The malevolent Helice Maki, who seemed more of an annoying pest in the previous volumes, comes full into her potential in City Without End. She is slithering her way into Sydney’s trust, as well as becoming a subtle player in her own right.
In many senses, this series can thus far be viewed as a tragedy. Everything our hero, Titus Quinn, touches from his Earth-bound world turns to despair. He lost his wife, first emotionally over a distance, then he lost her with finality in the previous volume. His estranged daughter has little regard for him. His brother Rob’s marriage is in dissolution because Rob’s wife Caitlin is hopelessly in love with Titus.
Lush, captivating and entrancing – City Without End is both a solid novel on its own and a great furthering of the story Kenyon is telling in this saga. There was a strong sense of closure upon the conclusion of the volume, but the unresolved plot elements still linger enough that the concluding volume Prince of Storms will be most welcome upon its publication.
© 2009 Rob H. Bedford