The Just City by

She turned into a tree.
–Jo Walton - The Just City - c.2015

ARC received via the publishers & netgalley.

Apollo just cannot understand why Daphne chose to turn into a tree. It simply doesn’t make sense to him. The game is that nymphs run, Apollo chases. And Apollo catches. He cannot comprehend why this nymph is so different, why would she rather be turned into a tree than be caught and “mated” to use his word.

Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent
He asks Artemis, who told him the answer, but when Apollo didn’t seem to understand, she recommended he go ask Athene. So he did. And in response Athene suggested he might like to take part in her experiment, the creation of a version of Plato’s Republic. Apollo could live there, as a human, and maybe that would help him learn why Daphne didn’t want to be caught at all.

The first book by Walton that I read was Tooth and Claw1 which I really enjoyed. The second was Among Others2 and I loved it. That was the book that made me want to read everything by Walton I could. Luckily she has a fair few books in her back catalogue. Of course I haven’t gotten through any of them, although I do have three books of hers sitting on my bookshelves, waiting until I have the time. But this one, The Just City sounded fascinating.

From the blurb : Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

How could I possibly resist it?

And it did make for a fascinating read. It is told from a variety of perspectives. There is Apollo, who has become human to learn more about free will and volition. There is Simmea, who was born in Egypt on a farm but enslaved sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D. And there is Maia, who was once a very proper, if educated, Victorian young lady.

Some have come to The Just City because they prayed to Athene for that very thing; Maia was trying to escape a society and culture that refused to recognise that women have brains. But others on the island were once slaves. They did not come to the island by choice, and they do not know know all that the “masters” do. They are the children of The Just City. Raised according to Plato’s rules and educated under his influence.

But could it possibly work? And if it did, would it really be a utopia of any sort?

I know that I’ve read some Plato, but only extracts here and there, a couple of his dialogues perhaps. I’ve never read The Republic, but now I’d like to. Although I certainly wouldn’t like to live in it, if Walton’s is an accurate representation of it.

But the story does raise so many interesting points. The differing views of the characters, most come from different times and places, and so have their own cultural baggage and notions. Even in the Just City sexism is ever present, and sexual violence makes its presence known.

It really is an intriguing read, and I, for the most part, loved it. And yet I’ve only rated it 7 Stars(( I’ve since upgraded it to 8)) Well, I just found the ending came out of nowhere, way too suddenly and abruptly. I wanted more! Possibly not an entirely fair reason but it left me feeling slightly disappointed. I’d say on a reread I might love it even more.

And, by visiting Walton’s website, I’ve just learned that this is book one in a series! So yay! more to read about Simmea, Apollo, and Maia. Hopefully. The series is called Thessaly

Buy or Borrow


  1. my review 

  2. my review 

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2 Responses

  1. I loved it! Can’t wait for the next in the series.

    • Fence says:

      Me too!, lucky that it’s coming out so soon. Only have a couple of months to wait and the third and final in the series is due next year.