Henry Shukmans debut fiction collection, Mortimer of the Maghreb, was acclaimed as fearless, brilliantly realized, [and] richly rewarding (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Now, in his first novel, he tells the story of a British expat searching for treasure and, more important, for connection, amid the seductions and dangers of a rootless life.
Jackson Small has just been discharged from the British military after witnessing the violent battlefield death of his closest friend, Connolly. It was Connolly who introduced him to the fascinations of ancient civilizations, enticing him with stories of La Joya, the capital of a vanished Peruvian empire. Coping with his grief, Jackson sets off in search of La Joya, hidden in the cloud forest hanging between the Andes and Amazonia.
Its an arduous journey: through desert, arid mountains, inhospitable villages, and impenetrable jungle. And though he finds unexpected helpfrom a young boy as wily as he is innocent, from an irreverent village priest, and from a woman who both redefines and fulfills all of Jacksons expectationshes also warned at every turn to abandon his search for a place that may not even exist. But he lets nothing stop him from entering the depths of the forest believed to protect the ruins of the lost citywhere he will encounter other seekers whose methods are far more sinister than his own
With its starkly lyrical voice, its headlong pace, and the romanticism of the quest that fuels it, The Lost City is at once suspenseful, continually unexpected, and thoroughly mesmerizing.
The strength of Shukman's work is the description of the scenery. The Lost City works best when Jackson is alone in the forest and desert, the delicate descriptions of cloud and fog, and the elegant illustrations of ancient cities shrouded in vines are beautiful and evocative. Shukman's pacing and gift for language are well showcased.
The Lost City is a great adventure story, but the promise of the grand exposé, with complex character development to follow, is unfulfilled. However, Jackson's development from disoriented sad youth to a man with a life plan, although predictable, is nice to read. (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Shukman takes narrative risks, but has yet to find his voice.
Starred Review. Shukman's forbidding landscapes and fearsome jungle labyrinths are as striking as his characters, cranking up the intensity of a cinematic page-turner
The Guardian - John Burnside
[T]hroughout The Lost City it is the land itself - from the grey deserts of Caballo Muerto to the buried city's labyrinth of fetid tunnels and terrifying carved beasts - that sets the terms of the novel's inquiry. Meanwhile, at the centre of this nightmare world, Shukman creates, in Jackson Small, a character so hopelessly vulnerable to his surroundings, and so desperately in need of redemption, that we want to pray for his safe passage as he pursues a penitent's journey across a forbidding landscape that is not only brilliantly evoked, but is also a moral and philosophical entity in itself.
The Independent (UK)
But what's perhaps most impressive here is the way that - without being at all crude or explicit or schematic about it - Shukman seems able to make everything symbolise something larger than itself. Every character embodies a whole philosophy and way of life. The lost city of La Joya (which is like a character in its own right, biding its time until its entrance) acts as a prism for Jackson's feelings about his own past, and the past in general.
Daily Mail (UK)
Shukman skilfully blends his genres: political intrigue, drug lords and South American militia edge this novel towards a contemporary Boy's Own adventure in the style of Buchan or Rider Haggard, while the poetic prose harks back to Conrad's Heart of Darkness ... A powerful debut.
Jackson's search for La Joya
(pronounced la hoi-ya) is a search any of us could embark
on, but we might find it more expedient to visit one of the
easier to locate
Chachapoya sites. The Chachapoyas, the Warriors of the
Clouds, lived in the Andes in what is now Northern Peru -
and La Joya, one of many ruined Chachapoyan cities, can be
visited today along with other ancient sites (map
of the region). It is believed that the Chachapoyas
tribe lived in the region from about the 9th-10th century.
They were conquered by the Incas in the 16th century who
gave them the name 'chachapoyas'; their original name is
Their origin is also unknown and somewhat mysterious -
evidence indicates that they had different architecture and
burial practices than other Amazonian tribes. In The Lost
City, Padre Beltran shows Jackson and Sarah two mummies,
one with rust colored hair. The...
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