Friday, December 7, 2012

Me on Black City

Title: Black City
Author: Elizabeth Richards
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin imprint)

In Black City, humans and Darklings are separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races are still running high after a terrible war. Then Ash, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie, the human daughter of an important figure, meet and do the unthinkable: they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection, both first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings towards each other, knowing that if they're caught they'd be executed, but the connection is too strong. When they find themselves at the centre of a deadly conspiracy that threatened to throw the city back into a war, they must make some hard choices that could result in their deaths.

Black City is a mix of genres that started off promising but then turned rather predictable. A dystopian setting with ash constantly flying through the sky, creatures that are essentially vampires but they're not called vampires, and a tragic love story fill this book. It's not necessarily a new and fresh idea, but the author deserves some credit for taking what's close to overdone and tired and re-worked it enough. The tension was constantly turned up after each page, keeping me interested, but then a twist blew everything right up into the air and the book took a tumble into predictability.

I've become wary of books that mix genres like this, books that combine the dystopian and the paranormal. It can work but it can also fail. Here, it sort of worked, but that's because the vampires aren't called vampires. Instead, they're Darklings. Instead, there are different kinds with different physical characteristics. Instead, it's sort of treated more like a disease, even more so in terms of the Wrath. It's reminiscent of Partials in that sense.

The two characters are recognizable stock characters. Natalie is privileged and frightened, she needs some spine, she needs to take control of her life. What makes her stand out are the secrets in her past and that what she discovers, combined with some bold choices, changes her future. Ash is shunned and abused, a foot in both worlds, but if he fights back he could be executed. Like Natalie, Ash has some secrets and will have to make some big decisions. The two of them make up a classic, and by classic I mean familiar and often-used, star-crossed lovers couple that suffer from a little instant love. Instant attraction and instant lust are okay, but not instant love.

What continues to surprise me is that school settings in dystopian or science fiction or even fantasy novels still feel like present day high school. There's a certain social order, there are cliques and groups and popular people. It makes me think that the pain of high school will never go away because high school will never die.

As the story progressed, I found it interesting, but then a massive twist appeared. Lots of things changed and, honestly, it became rather predictable. It surely put a damper on my enjoyment of the book as a whole. That being said, I'll continue the series but it's because I'm curious as to how it will all end.

(I received a finished copy from Penguin Canada.)

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