By Elizabeth Richards
Young Adult SF Dystopian
Published November 2012
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.
LOL…I was a little worried at first because even though I loved the very first glimpse of Ash (hot name by the way! I have an Ashur in one of my books), he got a little pansy-ass for me for a while. He was much too smitten with Miss Natalie and well, just got a bit boring. But then… he got better. It takes a while though and maybe this is just because it’s young adult and not new adult or whatever. But I can’t really complain about that, the characters are only sixteen.
But the thing about this story is that it’s got a lot of very adult topics in it. And it’s not the wishy-washy kind, like Hunger Games. Hunger Games had all that dystopian politics and war and crap. But it felt a bit juvenile. Black City has very grown-up themes running through it. And I’m not talking about grown up topics, because all politics is for grown-ups. Black City politics were dirty.
Like real life. Like some of the better adult science fiction out there. They were dirty and dark and deep.
I like all three of these things in just about every SF-ish story, so this made all the difference for me. I kept going because I could see it was a lot more complex than just a romance between a half-darkling boy and a privileged girl.
In addition, the plot was actually quite twisty and complex. I like this as well. The more vague and hidden the secrets, the more I like the story. If you read this book and didn’t “get it”, then you don’t like the things I just described, because this book was actually plotted brilliantly. The twists in the second half of the book pulled it all together, and yes, the insta-love was very annoying, but the REASON for the insta-love blew me away.
Some of the scenarios are a bit simple, I do admit that. But this is YA. The characters are sixteen, which means the intended audience begins at about fourteen, whether that’s the intention of the publishers or not, that’s pretty much how it shakes out in the real world. I’m OK with some of the more simplistic plot devices.
So, as I look at the reviews for this book on Goodreads, I see the first one for me is a reviewer who didn’t finish the book. Sorry, it’s sorta required to finish the book in order to review it and understands what you read. So I take exception to that. In addition, this book makes you think – there is actual honest-to-God science in here. Most YA “dystopians” gloss over this stuff and so for science people like me, that’s disappointing. I loved the science in this book, even though I did figure out what was causing the Wrath pretty quick, it was like, there was a twist to everything that at first appeared so simple. In fact, I will go so far as to say perhaps those who didn’t “get it” simply didn’t understand what they read, or had a hard time connecting all the dots. There are a lot of dots. This plot is mature, twisty, layered, and not at all what it appears to be on the surface.
If you read this story and didn’t come away from the book feeling that way, sorry. You missed it. Maybe read it again, or maybe it’s not your kind of book and forget about it. Either way, this author is a plotter, she has an extremely original story on her hands, and she executed it with above-average skill.
Oh, and the part about Ash cheating? Boo-fucking-hoo. This isn’t really a romance, it’s SF dystopian. Just because a book has a romance in it, doesn’t make it a romance, so maybe the publisher should stop calling it a “tender post-apocalyptic love story” and they might get a better response from reviewers. But anyway, in case you didn’t understands this, let me explain. SF authors do NOT owe readers a happy ending or anything else for that matter. You don’t have to like it, but that’s the way it is. When you agree to read SF, you agree to whatever the hell that author wants to throw at you. There are NO promises in SF. Cheating, lying, killing off main characters, unhappy endings, whatever. It’s all up for grabs in SF. So the next time you decide to review a SF story, keep that in mind.
And just for the record, I don’t know this author. At all. She’s not a friend, virtual or otherwise.
I think the beginning could’ve been edited down more and this book would’ve been five full stars for me. But I enjoyed it and I will definitely read it again before I start book two (which I just bought in hardcover and will give away, along with Black City, when I review it.)