The City and The City Book Review

The City and the City: Book Review by Dinh.

3 stars out of 5


The City and The City Book Review


In the city of Beszel, a woman is found murdered and Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad has to investigate the case.

At the offset,  Borlú suspects that what looks like a straight forward murder is far from that.

As Borlú delves into the case, it brings him into the other city of Ul Qoma where he has to work with  Ul Qoman detective Qussin Dhatt. Together the two try to unravel a case that will involve conspiracies and perhaps take on more than they can handle.



I was really looking forward to reading The City and the City after I spoke to an older lady at the library who was  a big China Miéville fan and recommended me to read it.

I have not heard of China Miéville before and did a quick search to find that he’s well known for the fantasy genre. One of his most acclaimed book is  Perdido Street Station. Other of his books include King Rat, The Scar, Iron Council, Looking for Jake: Stories and Un Lun Dun.

The excitement I felt was short lived.

I had started reading it and read about 100 pages of the book so pretty much of a third was read. There are only 312 pages in the hard cover version that I read. It was good and I was enjoying it. But…..

Horse Tranquilizer!

For some reason I had to put the book down and it was probably at least a week after I picked it up to read again. Each time I picked it up it made me fall asleep. I would read a page and then nod off. No kidding, this happened several times.

With hindsight I don’t think that was a good idea to have put it down over a week as I was totally lost and had to re-read parts of it again to get back into the grove.

The City and the City just didn’t work for me.

The book is well written so Miéville is an excellent writer but I kept finding that I just was not looking forward to reading it, especially when it tranquilized me.

The City and The City by China Mieville


And what else didn’t I like about it?

Complicated Plot!

The plot was confusing. This is a fantasy novel so it has elements that are beyond the realm of reality but it was hard to imagine the scenarios.

I couldn’t get my head around the scenes that were taking place in the story. Conceptually, I was missing it. We have a city that is sharing its space with another city but the cities are not suppose to acknowledge the other city existence. Beszel is on the eastern side of Europe and is poor while Ul Qoma is more of a rich city.

So in the story you actually can see into the other city but it’s illegal to “see” it. When you do “see” the other city you have to “unsee” it. Breach is the dominating authority that punishes its citizens if they violate the rules. Whether you deliberately or accidentally breach you can get your memories wiped or you just disappear.

The concept of both cities occupying the some of the same space was far out but there was further confusion of Orciny, perhaps another city that lies between the two cities. Put it all together, and also reading a few pages at a time it got excruciating difficult to understand the plot.

In this complicated setting, we have a murder going on that inspector Borlú from the Crime Squad in Beszel has to investigate. So you think it’s a mystery at first and then it changes direction.

The story line started off really nicely and got me interested but when it veered off to the cities and how the murder happened that’s when I got lost.

Although it was confusing I pushed myself to finishing the book. Well, I had already committed to reading a good third and it would be a waste of time not to see it to the end.

Did I enjoy any parts of the book?

I hate to be so negative about the book since it was a well written book but I really was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it like I thought I would.

Even the ending I found to be unsatisfactory. Yes, we find out more about “Breach” and the story finished off with a closed ending and somewhat tied together. The answers were not satisfying though because the plot was confusing to me. Its direction with the murder and then the possibly third city left no focus.

My final thoughts?

The concept of the two cities and story line is interesting and original. I did enjoy that it was about a murder and the inspector had to solve a mystery case but overall, the confusing concepts involved was a deal breaker and it made the reading not enjoyable. No feel good feelings here.


Get a copy of The City and The City here or listen to it for free with an Audible trial.

Look for your next book to read here!

Have you read any of China Miéville books? What are your thoughts on The City and the City compared to his other works?



21 thoughts on “The City and The City Book Review

    1. Hi Furkan!
      The City and the City is an interesting concept for a book but it got too confusing in its execution and that put me off. I do like Mieville’s writing though; it’s hard to come across a good fantasy book that is written well.

      If you are into fantasy, I would recommend Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Here’s the link to the review. I just discovered him and love his book. I am currently reading another of his books and just love it too.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Let me know how The Ocean at the End of the Lane work out for you. 🙂

  1. A shame that this book wasn’t for you! But if it’s constantly putting you to sleep… then I think you can tell it just isn’t really clicking with you. It’s a shame the plot was so confusing, because then you can never really delve into it and enjoy the book as much as you want to!

    1. Hi Olivia!
      I think the combination of a confusing plot and me trying to read it at night when I am tired is not good.
      I like to get into a book and let my imagination take over but unfortunately this one didn’t let me get into it. Well, you lose some you win some. 🙂

      I appreciate you stopping by!

  2. Hi Dinh,
    too bad you didn’t enjoy this book. I would give up on reading a book if I lose interest and it puts me to sleep!
    Good for you for finishing the book. At least I know to what to expect with this book. Thanks!

    1. Hi Peter!
      I almost gave up on The City and The City but I was already committed- I had read a third of the book and it seem a waste to not finish it.

      How can I comment on the book if I didn’t finish reading it? I had to give it a chance….

      Thanks for your comments!

    1. Hi Arianan!
      I totally agree with you that some books you either like or hate.

      The City and the City didn’t work for me. I noticed that other reviewers really liked it and wrote an exciting and good review on it. They saw more in the book than me. I just tried to stay awake….LOL

      Thanks for stopping by at Arlene’s Book Club.

  3. I hate it when I get all curled up and ready to read a new book and then I just can’t get into it. 🙁 Like you, I always try to get into it. But sometimes it just doesn’t work. I really appreciate your honest review of The City and the City.

    1. Hi Wendy!
      I try to be honest as possible.
      I want to be honest so people reading the review can be forewarned.

      The City and the City is not for everyone. I like fantasy so I did enjoy the first part of the book until it changed direction. I thought it was a good mystery/crime up until the explanation of the cities….

      Thanks for your comments!

  4. Good on you for reading this book even though the plot was confusing and complicated. I usually scan the first page of a book whenever I chance upon something that looks interesting. If the first page doesn’t interest me, I wouldn’t bother continuing. Lol! Oh, and I havent heard of China Miéville before. Thanks for the review!

    1. Hi Yvonne!
      I used to be like you and don’t bother finishing the book if I lose interest.

      This is the first book I’ve read by fantasy writer Mieville and I heard such good things so I wanted to give it a chance.

      He’s a good writer but the plot was just too confusing.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Oh bum! Sorry this one didn’t work out for you. I haven’t had a chance to pick up any of China Miéville’s books yet but I have heard of him with high regards. I chuckled when you mentioned about falling asleep within a page of reading his book. That happens to me a lot, too! But, it’s my fault for reading at way past midnight. =)

    1. Hi Lonna!
      I’m glad it made you laugh reading the post. It’s nice to get an emotion 🙂
      I usually read late at night so if the book is not captivating my attention I will pass out! LOL.

      Perhaps this was just one of his worse books. I am going to give him another chance and read Perdido Street Station before I say I don’t like him.

      Thanks for popping in!

  6. What a shame. It sounds like an interesting and unique plot, but if it is confusing and cannot keep your attention, then what’s the point right? Reading should be enjoyable and make you want to come back for me! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this review. 🙂


    1. Hi Rebecca!
      Thanks for your comments.

      I do agree that reading should be enjoyable. We have so many books and so little time…..
      I persevered through it because I was committed. I had already read 1/3 of the book and felt that it would be better to finish it. He’s a good writer but the whole book was a bit disjointed. I didn’t know where Mieville was going with it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hey there! Thanks for this review, now I know I probably am not going to go and try reading this book, BUT! I know who can benefit a lot from “reading” it: People with insomnia problems 🙂
    Also, I wanted to ask you , how do sci-fi/Fantasy novels rank on your list? Do you love them or you rather read some other genres?

    1. Hi Ana!
      This book did put me to sleep and it would put others who have insomnia too. LOL…

      I love reading sci-fi/fantasy books although lately I feel like I have been reading more historical fiction. I heard China Mieville was a very good fantasy writer from a women I met and she highly recommended him. I do like the way he writes so it’s not the end for Mieville. I will pickup other books of his before I discard him totally.

      I am one of those that find they like something and stick to it. So when I find a series that I like I tend to read them all if I can. You may have noticed that I love the Outlander series and have done 3 review of the books already. More to come…. 🙂 I am trying to change it up a bit since not everyone will have the same taste as me.

      For me variety is the spice of life so I will end up reading most books that are personally recommended to me.

      Thanks for stopping by at Arlene’s Book Club!

    1. Hi Sandra!
      Reading is fantastic most of the time. Some times it can be hard work like The City and the City but when I find a great book it’s so wonderful. I feel that when I read some thing that is not so good it makes me appreciate the good books so much more.

      I am glad to hear that you like “learn a word” I love to learn new things and words.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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