Author: Elizabeth Richards
Release: November 13th 2012
Genre: Dystopia, Paranormal, YA
#1 in the Black City trilogy
Sequels: Phoenix (#2), Wings (#3)
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.
Hm. This is actually really, really hard for me to write a review for, because this is a very difficult book.
Let me start with world-building. I loved the world Richards has created, and I think it was completely believable. Of course, apart from the paranormal aspect, but it was done quite well. This book seemed a little like a cross between The Iron Fey and Shadow & Bone, somehow, maybe that's why I have reservations about giving this book any less than a 3-star-rating. Anyway, the universe was very interesting and I liked what she did with it.
Characters. Now, the characters were nice enough. Natalie was very weak, moments where she wasn't crying or needed to be saved were few and far between, she had to be constantly rescued and when she wasn't for once, she sat in her room, pouting and crying because she was irrationally mad at her boyfriend. Ash was not really that much better, he had this aura of dark, brooding and mysterious that drives girls crazy, but alas, he could not live up to my expectations of him. After Prince Ash from Julie Kagawa's Iron King, I looked for a cold, icy boy that warms up to his true love in due time, but no. Although he did promise to live up to my expectations at first, it was all destroyed in a matter of a few chapters. There was this insta-love that was terrible to read, and at least half the plot was relationship-only.
There are a lot of characters that are presented like villains, the bad guys, namely Natalie's mother and her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian, who incidentally acts as her guard. It seemed really fishy to me that Natalie's mom never got a name, she was only ever referred to as "Mother" or "The Emissary". What? The same with Ash's father, he was always just "Minister Fisher". Seriously, if the author can come up with such uncreative names like Natalie, Sebastian, Chris and Gregory, she could've easily come up with some cheap name for them, too. But no, they'll be nameless forever.
But, where was I? Right, both of them, "Mother" and Sebastian, were put in a dark spotlight and they always tried to be shitty to Natalie and they couldn't possibly understand her and blah blah blah. It was very hypocritical, as she wasn't nice to them, either, they had no reason to be kind to her in return. She's supposed to respect her mother, not act like a selfish, spoiled bat. I know that we find out she really did bad stuff at the end, but she did it with relatively good intentions and cannot be blamed for the bad decisions she made to protect the ones she loved as best she could. Now, there is a scene where Natalie and her mom reconcile and resolve their hatred, kind of, which was nice, but the resentment I felt about her acting rude towards her mother the entire novel still wasn't soothed by that.
And then, yes, we have Sebastian and at the end, he's just presented as even more of a jerk. What bothered me with him wasn't necessarily the poor treatment he'd gotten from Natalie, he deserved that, but that he seemed to be part of a love rectangle, which really shouldn't have been added. Especially as rape is used as an excuse to paint him a ruthless, vicious man without mercy at the end. Because everything that came before wasn't enough yet to get the reader to dislike him! And to get Ash to dislike him, as well.
The romance was atrocious at times and extremely sweet at others. This book is fluff. Complete fluff. If you love mush and ooey-gooey, this one's for you.Yes, I have to admit my heart fluttered for Natalie and Ash a little, but there were countless times their relatioship seemed ridiculous to me. You know how usually, the couple gets together in the first novel, has a relationship crisis during the second, and they make up in the third book? All that happens just in this one book. I'm really wondering what she's going to do for the second one, or if she'll pull all the hot-and-cold-drama all over again. This was painful to watch. The constant "No, I can't be with him/her. I don't even like him/her. Why do I keep having these thoughts about him/her?" and then after, I don't know, a few days (like, three?) they're starting to make out even though what they're doing is punishable by death. They then have no qualms about gallivanting their infatuation to their respective best friends, who are both furious about it and both Natalie and Ash argue with their best friends and choose each other over friendship. Yup. After that, one party "betrays" the other in some way, which they could never, ever forgive but after a few hours the offender apologizes and they're accepted with wide arms again. And this happened, oh, I don't know, approximately four times over. It was completely agonizing.
The writing style was okay. It didn't flow as nicely as others and wasn't very poetic, but it wasn't unbearable either. After all, this was her debut novel. Still, the writing seemed like a child had written this sometimes, like something I would've written in Middle School. Furthermore, I had trouble keeping the two POVs apart, as they sounded quite similar. They weren't exactly the same, like with [book: Matched], but there were a few phrases that completely matched up and made it hard differentiating.
But, well, the plot. When the plot didn't consist of Ash and Natalie, I enjoyed it, mostly because I found the world-building really good. Not much happened, but what did happen, was very intriguing and there are actually some plot twists that shocked me and made me frantically turn the pages.
Ultimately, I'm not sure whether I'll read the second book or not. Maybe I will sometimes, but for now, I'll pass, I think. I've had enough of Natalie and Ash for a while, and I'm even considering re-reading The Iron Fey like, right about now, to get the image of this weak Ash that was a complete let-down in the name of Ashes out of my mind...