Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Black City by Elizabeth Richards

Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons BYR
(Thank you to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Release Date: November 13, 2012

Black City by Elizabeth Richards

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war. In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable--they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash's long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they're caught, they'll be executed--but their feelings are too strong. When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.


Ten likes/dislikes:

1. (+/-) Natalie, one of the protagonists - Natalie was the typical brave but kind protagonist. At the start of the novel, she's grieving over her father's murder. While I felt for her in that regard and could sympathize with her for feeling lost, I did not enjoy seeing how spoiled she was, and how badly she sometimes treated others because she had had a better lot in life. (Her snobbish attitude about Centrum, one of the bigger cities, and how she would go there really bothered me).... But then she improved, and honestly, at least she was willing to improve, and she was kinder and more thoughtful as the novel progressed. However, while I liked Natalie at times, there was nothing special about her character that really grabbed me.
2. (+) Ash, the other protagonist - Ash, on the other hand, was more interesting. His perspective gave me a look at how differently he gets treated as a Darkling, and how he has grown to meet that challenge and to take care of his parents. Ash has made sacrifices and is also kind and protective but sarcastic. He is more or less "one of a kind," so his perspective also explores more of the typical teenage belonging issues than Natalie's does.
3. (+) World-building - I really enjoyed reading about the Darkling customs and the history of Black City and having more context to the war than most books with dystopian elements do. I liked some of the parallels to contemporary history, like with the wall and segregation. I wasn't too fond of the fact that Prurian Rose sounded like another President Snow or the fact that the other cities sounded a lot like the different districts, but I definitely look forward to seeing the sequel embracing its differences from other dystopian and paranormal tropes.
4. (--) Portrayal of Religion - Jesus Christ. The last time I got this upset about religion in a book was when I was reading Struck by Jennifer Bosworth. Instead of creating a new religion as the author had created a new world, she paralleled Prurianism to Christianity and made it into an evil cult. I am tired of reading this cliche  portrayal. At least, if you are going to do that, then add enough details so that it goes beyond cliche and into its own realm (think Death Eaters; they were zealots to their cause in a way that went beyond the typical portrayal of religion.) There are other ways to show that people are being martyred than crucifying them. Other ways of creating a religion than comparing it to Christianity by introducing the Book of Creation (sound familiar, anybody?) and having followers shave their heads, get a tattoo, attend services...
5. (+/-) The Romance - I didn't buy it completely. First off, I liked that Ash and Natalie didn't really like each other from the start. I liked that there was an explanation for their instant physical attraction... Going from dislike to like to love, however, I did not like--it went way too fast. One experience, one touch, and it goes speeding along, and if you don't believe in it, well, tough, because the rest of the book asks how much you think Ash and Natalie are attached to each other. How much they are willing to risk, etc. etc.  Natalie and Ash make their decision to be with each other, regardless of the consequences, way too early on and too quickly.
6. (+) The Plot - the plot is what essentially saved this book for me from becoming another addition to the paranormal romance (with a hint of dystopia) genre. I saw one of the bigger plot twists from a mile away, but the rest of them?  No. It surprised me, how many thriller elements there were and how I couldn't quite tell what was coming. The second half of the book (after Natalie and Ash have fallen in love) definitely outweighs the first half in terms of excitement.
7. (+/-) Characters - Some hit the mark, some fell flat.  I would love, for instance, to know more about Sebastien, Sebastien's Dad, and Sigur Ros, the Darkling ambassador. Sebastien was cruel but fascinating (which is why I want to know more about his dad, really... especially after plot twists)... And Sigur Ros is the kind of figure who commands respect without you even knowing all that much about him.... But Beetle and Day, Ash's and Natalie's respective friends, as well as Natalie's sister and mother among others all fell flat and felt more like stock characters than real people.
8. (+/-) The Writing - The writing's okay, nothing special though. Ash and Natalie's perspectives were written really similarly, enough so that if it weren't for the difference in their backgrounds, they could be mistaken for the other.
9. (+) Pacing - Standard rise and fall - first third is Ash and Natalie falling in love, second third is the consequences behind that, and last third is when all shit goes wrong / testing their love. Pretty well paced, as the suspense and conflict grow throughout the book.
10. (+) The Cover - Brilliant. The image of the rose is more than just a symbol of the romance; it's also integral to the plot. I love how the rose is exploding over the city.... I wonder if the cover designer read the book, it just fits it so well.


Black City mixes paranormal romance with dystopian elements in an action-packed thriller that will likely not disappoint fans of the former genre looking for a new series to follow.

9 comments:

  1. While I've always loved your review layout (ten +/-), for me it really works well with this book. To be fair, I didn't know a lot about it coming in other than repeatedly seeing that gorgeous cover. I think I'll try it when I have time, specifically because I really like seeing books that are apocalyptic or dystopian AND have descriptive history that works, purely because it is so rare (which frustrates me to no end).

    It'll probably be a library book, but it sounds like something I can read on the train and be entertained without expecting it to overwhelm me.

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