Kirkus | 01 May 2010 |

Gangster fantasy - call it thugpunk - with a curious history: The book, a revised version of Ayuamarca: Procession of the Dead (1999), resurfaced in the U.K. in 2008 as the first of a trilogy; Shan himself is better known as the popular author of gruesome YA fantasies (Dark Calling, 2009, etc.). Young, ambitious Capac Raimi travels to the city in order to find his small-time gangster uncle Theo and learn the trade as Theo's heir. But just as Theo seems on the verge of breaking into the big time, he and his gang are gunned down by The Cardinal, the strange, ruthless, psychic criminal overlord who really runs the city. Instead of killing Capac, however, The Cardinal recruits him and puts him to work selling insurance. All well and good, Capac thinks, given his megalomaniacal aspirations. But soon he discovers he can't remember his past. Acquaintances vanish without a trace to become unpersons-they never existed. What of the city's furtive blind wizards and their enigmatic green fog? What does The Cardinal's unsettling collection of black-clad puppets signify? Why are so many of The Cardinal's key people, including Capac himself, different? Puzzles and action galore, with post-adolescent yet never quite adult characters, and a plot that's all surface dazzle, culminating in the last few pages with a desperate torrent of explication. Graphic, inventive, yet heartless in every sense; presumably, however, fans who grew up with Shan will stick around for the upcoming installments.

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