Only having read a short story by this author before, although several anthologies that he had edited, I was looking forward to reading a full novel by him. I wasn't really sure what to expect, least of which was I thought this was going to be SF but instead turned out to be some kind of urban fantasy thriller.
The narrative started simply, the action kicked in right away and the story gradually grew in complexity as more characters were introduced, more layers of intrigue revealed.
In some ways, I couldn't help but draw parallels between this and Perdido Street Station, being another fantasy story set entirely within a single sprawling city with many dark and sinister corners hidden away. Physically though, this city is very different. A city of one hundred rows (or levels to be precise) and a similarly stratified society with the lower classes living near the bottom, the aristocrats living nearer the top. At the very bottom is the under city, a sprawling slum dominated by various gangs of "street-nicks" and awash with corruption. This is where most of the action takes place, at least in this volume. There is definitely a lot more about the real nature of the city that has been only hinted at here but we expect to learn more about in later volumes.
What let this story down for me slightly were a number of things that I just didn't find particular convincing. Knowledge just seemed to percolate far to quickly, the time period over which the under city degenerated too short. At the end, everything was just wrapped up a little too neatly, all the loose ends neatly tied up. The rogues were all too easily out maneuvered in the end that I couldn't help feeling that this was aimed at a young adult audience more than an adult.
Still, this was a good read, easy to get into and entertaining to the end. Ian has an easy and engaging writing style who doesn't get lost in needless exposition and over long descriptions. A good book but I'm just not quite sure I'm in the target audience.