The City of Shadow: A Tour

Now that the first two chapters of The Broken Kingdoms have been posted, and you’ve gotten a glimpse of what life is like in the city beneath Sky, I have a question for you: would you want to live there?

For those who haven’t read the sample chapters, I’ll give you a brief description of the city. Spoilers for those who haven’t read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms!

Shadow — the local, colloquial name; officially the city is still called Sky — sits amid the roots of the World Tree, and within the shadow of the Tree’s canopy of leaves and branches. Most parts of the city receive a little sunlight in the morning, and a little in the evening, but only dappled light at best at any other time of day. The Tree is an evergreen, so this never really changes.

One large root bisects the city into West Shadow — or Wesha, as the locals call it — and East Shadow, or Easha. There is a tunnel beneath this root, for those who want to traverse between the two halves, and there are stairs and platforms leading onto and over the root as well. Most denizens of the city take the time to go “up the root” every few days to bask in the sunlight; devout Itempans tend to pray up here at dawn and/or sunset. Despite this, most of the common Amn of Shadow are on the pale side, and probably in various stages of vitamin D deficit. This doesn’t get mentioned explicitly in chapter 2 because she doesn’t know it, but one of the reasons Oree loves smoked velly so much is that fatty fish is an excellent source of vitamin D. (I imagine velly will become more popular over the years, as the city adjusts to being in the Tree’s shadow.)

In each half of the city are business districts, residential neighborhoods, parks, and so on. The city’s largest market is the Sun Market, in Wesha, but there are smaller ones scattered around the city. The city’s main thoroughfare is the Avenue of Nobles, which terminates at the Salon, where the Nobles’ Consortium meets. Before it reaches the Salon, however, the Avenue passes through a very high-traffic rotary that happens to be at the ideal location to view the Tree, called the Promenade. The Promenade borders Gateway Park, a landscaped area that once constituted the main entryway to Sky’s Vertical Gate — but since the ground entrance to the Vertical Gate is now occluded by the Tree, the park has gone a little wild. This park-gone-to-seed and the Promenade have become a gathering place for various entities. Tourists, especially those who have begun to openly worship gods other than Itempas, come to the Promenade to pray and view the Tree. Local opportunists come to profit from the tourists, selling souvenirs and trinkets and food, offering tours of the city, and occasionally fleecing the gullible. Oree, book 2’s protagonist, makes her living here as an art seller.

There are several other areas of the city that we’ll see over the course of The Broken Kingdoms. There’s the Shustocks Junkyard, where carters and other crafters dump their unusable goods; South Root, the city’s roughest neighborhood, where it’s dark all the time; Ancestors’ Village, the city’s “Skid Row”; and the trunk of the Tree, onto which wealthier citizens have begun building elaborate treehouse mansions. There’s even a small district where a number of godlings have begun to live — though most of them prefer to live separately from each other, mixing in among the mortals in whatever way they’ve chosen to do.

So: does it sound like a nice place to visit? Or would you actually want to live there?

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2 Responses »

  1. I’ve never been much of a city person; I love visiting them but I wouldn’t want to live there. That said, I’m guessing I’d feel the same about Shadow, ESPECIALLY since it’s in the shade all the time. I get super-depressed without sunlight (especially during the winter) so I’d probably one of those sorts constantly crawling up to spaces where the most light was available if I was a resident. As it is, I’d be better off there as a gawking tourist (and buy my usual souvenir tea blend, as is custom when I travel).

  2. Actually, I want to say yes. I love trees, all kinds of them, and I think living beneath a big freaking huge one would be pretty freaking cool. I love sunlight too, though, so that would be the one drawback to the whole thing. But then again, I love CLIMBING trees too, so I’d probably just climb up to the sunshine spot every day and bask a while.

    I think I’d like to build me a tiny mansion on the tree’s trunk…