You know those fantasy books that bombard you with seventy five new names in the first paragraph? This is very close to being one of them. I had to press on through the first chapter, dense with the names of species, individuals, streets, districts and who knows what else, trusting that it would all make sense sooner or later.

And it did. But if you’re looking for a light, easy, fantasy read, this is not it. I flatter myself that I have an extensive vocabulary, but even so I was checking the dictionary from time to time throughout this novel. At times the prose veers towards the purple, stopping just shy of it. It reminded me of Victorian stories, flowery and descriptive in a way that books today have eschewed (see, I told you I know words).

It reminded me in particular of H. P. Lovecraft, not least because of some of the horrors that people endure. He similarly never used one word where seven would fit, and that style will either grow on you or grate terribly. But unlike Lovecraft, there is an undercurrent (or susurrus as Miéville would undoubtedly say) of hope in this story.

Every character is hoping for something, dreaming of a change that will improve (or restore) their lives. And every one of them will be challenged as never before, forced to reassess what actually matters to them, and how far they will go to achieve their goals.

But this isn’t about the plot - as terrifying and well-paced as it is. It’s not even about the characters, as remarkable and unique as they are. It’s about the place.

Think of Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork, a character in its own right. Then turn that up to eleven, lose the jokes and increase the social commentary. New Crobuzon is a vibrant, alien, sprawling vastness, filled with horrors and delights in equal measure. The reason those initial chapters were so obscure was to drop you into this city as an outsider, make you stumble and feel your way around, uncertain what was around every corner. The framing device is the narration of Yagharek, an outcast who has come to the city in search of redemption, and we’re as overwhelmed as he is.

It would be so easy to lose the reader in this endeavour, baffle and bewilder them into giving up. But stick with it, persevere as Yagharek does, and you will be rewarded with one of the most enthralling and absorbing reads you will ever encounter.