This is the second book in John Christopher’s TRIPODS series, one of (if not THE) first dystopian series for children. If you haven’t read The White Mountains yet, you should start there first, though there is a short recap in this instalment.
At the end of The White Mountains, the boys Will, Henry, and Beanpole had fled their towns because they didn’t want to be “capped” by the alien Tripods who had conquered Earth and turned humanity into docile sheep. After much adventure, the boys finally arrived at the rebel base in the White Mountains where they’ve been learning and training for a year. The rebels are not content to just hide out. They hope to overthrow the Tripods and restore humanity to its rightful place as Earth’s ruler.
To do this, they’ll need information. They need to know what the “Masters” who control the Tripods are like. (We didn’t know about the Masters in the previous book because, as John Christopher explains in the introduction, he did not yet know himself whether the Tripods were the aliens, or were just vehicles for the aliens.) To acquire this information, they need to infiltrate the city where the aliens live. The best way to do this is to compete in a tournament that allows the winners to come to the Masters’ city to serve them (this is supposed to be a huge honor). As you might guess, Will gets picked to attend the tournament. First he has to get to the competition (it’s in Germany), which is an adventure in itself. Then he has to win his boxing matches, so he can be chosen to be a servant in the Masters’ city. There he hopes to learn essential information, escape, and return to the rebel base with his intelligence.
The City of Gold and Lead is another exciting adventure that is sure to please children who enjoyed the first TRIPODS book. I would have loved this when I was a kid. There are some terrific scenes, and a couple that are quite horrifying. The story moves quickly and rarely lags.
The story isn’t over yet. You’ll need the next book, The Pool of Fire, to find out what happens to Earth and its Masters.
The audio version I listened to was produced by Audible Studios and is almost five hours long. William Gaminara does a great job with the narration.