A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky – Review

Cover- A City Dreaming

Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Published: October 4, 2016

Publisher: Regan Arts

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0



M is a drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and limited magical ability, who would prefer drinking artisanal beer to involving himself in the politics of the city. Alas, in the infinite nexus of the universe which is New York, trouble is a hard thing to avoid, and when a rivalry between the city’s two queens threatens to turn to all out war, M finds himself thrust in thrust in the unfamiliar position of hero. Now, to keep the apocalypse from descending on the Big Apple, he’ll have to call in every favor, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired – he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

Enter a world of Wall Street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steam-punk universes, hipster zombies, and phantom subway lines. Because the city never sleeps, but is always dreaming.

Having never read anything by Daniel Polansky, I didn’t know what to expect when I began A City Dreaming. What I got was a weirdly fascinating book that left me guessing at what was really happening. M, the main character, is a magician that can’t seem to put down roots in any one city. Maybe because he’s constantly getting on the bad side of important and/or powerful people. M has come back to New York City after a long absence and he begins rekindling old friendships and old grudges, just in time for a crisis to begin building.

The plot in this book is something else, lemme tell ya. Most books have a very linear plot. The MC finds out he/she needs to save something, whether it’s a person, a city, the world etc. but in A City Dreaming I didn’t really know what the point was for most of the book and I was strangely okay with that. Instead of getting right to the point, M goes on all these crazy adventures (they’re more like inconveniences to M) and I started to get the sense that maybe, just maybe there was some connection between these seemingly random divergences. It was like some sort of hallucinatory trip- M travels through Hell on a New York subway train, he and his compatriots get sucked into an RPG-esque fantasy scene , and he goes to a party where zombies are serving him drinks. Each situation was so unbelievable creative and wacky that I couldn’t help but to like this book.

The outlandish and otherworldly situations were also a really fantastic way to introduce M’s associates (be they enemies or friends). One of my favorites is when M rescues Boy (who is a girl) from Captain Grimdark, a canal pirate who haunts a particularly foul waterway and has mistakenly captured a magician who’s out of his league. Each character is a unique specimen and there are so, so many to choose from. You’ll really just have to read it to find out more!

I enjoyed A City Dreaming and it’s made me curious about Polansky’s other books, which I’ve had my eye on for some time now. If anyone has read them, I would love to hear what you thought! This book was kind of surprise in that I was surprised I actually liked it. I loved that the plot was crazy and I never knew what M was going to do next. There wasn’t a lot of background info, but I didn’t need it to enjoy the book. I would say give it a try- I was laughing (or at least smiling) every few pages because the humor suited me and I ended up highlighting WAY more quotes than I usually do in a book.


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