Review: Black City

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Black CityBlack City by Elizabeth Richards
Series: Black City #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on November 13, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 374
Format: ARC
Source: BEA

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-old 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.

First Sentence: “An air raid siren wails in the distance, alerting Black City citizens to lock their doors and turn out the lights.”

In a grim future filled with deadly creatures, a difficult romance blooms. Black City is a dark romance, a tale of star-crossed lovers in a post-apocalyptic world ruled over by a man setting up his own cult of personality. This series will appeal to Romeo and Juliet fans that like their stories dark, violent, vampiric, and want to give the lovers another chance to survive to the end.

What happened to the country is not entirely clear. Now, though, there are Darklings, which are much like vampires, and Bastets, half-cat creatures that can kill Darklings. Was there some sort of war that created these creatures? I don’t know. On top of that, there are also Wraths, Darklings driven mad by a disease until they are nothing but hunger.

Humans, horrified by these monsters in their midst have taken over, having defeated the Darklings in a brutal war. They segregated the Darklings into camps behind high walls, killing any who escape. They have forbidden relationships between humans and Darklings, meaning that only a few twin-bloods like Ash exist. The Darklings’ venom, conveyed by a bite, does not kill; instead, it serves a powerful narcotic, the Haze, to which many humans are addicted.

Purian Rose, who we don’t really get to meet, looms in the background. He is the leader of the United Sentry States, a totalitarian government bent on keeping the Darklings down or, even better, killing them all. Really, though, Purian Rose is a cult leader. He has even created a religion to himself. Warning: if your leader makes a religion based around himself, it’s time for the straitjacket.

The opening scene sets the tone for Black City and may make many readers uncomfortable. Ash, the hero of the piece, peddles his wares (aka Haze…and pleasure) to a young girl. She has some drug in her system already, which is against his rules, and he leaves her in the streets. He meets Natalie, the daughter of the Emissary who caught him in the act. He threatens her death and leaves. The rest of the book I would say is not quite as shocking as the opening, but, if it upsets you, you may not wish to continue.

As is very popular these days, Black City is told from the perspectives of Ash and Natalie. While I like Richards’ writing, I had difficulty discerning which character I was reading at any given time if they were in the same location. I really just didn’t get a sense of them from the writing itself. For one thing, Natalie seemed a lot more silly and girly from Ash’s perspective than her narration conveyed. They just really read the same to me. There are chapter headings with their names, but if I forgot whose chapter I was in I had to rely on them seeing or thinking about the other one to clear things up for me. Also, it didn’t help that they occasionally didn’t alternate chapters.

As such, I wasn’t bonded to the characters. I really just did not have a feel for them at all. Is Natalie the way she felt from Ash’s perspective or how she is in her narration? I really just don’t know. Ash, too, I have trouble getting a feel for, as that opening scene seemed a bit out of character for how he acts for most of the rest of the novel. Perhaps I’m supposed to see this as Natalie’s affect on him, but I didn’t really get that impression. Their romance really was pretty meh to me. It was so obviously coming, and I didn’t find the build up or the fruition especially satisfying.

The most interesting aspect to the romance was actually the love triangle which appears along the way. I won’t tell you what happens, but I can say that it opens up some philosophical questions about the nature of love that I found fascinating. I only wish more had been done with this, because these questions seemed much too easily dismissed. There should have been some more navel-gazing as a result, but that really wouldn’t have gone with the epic true love angle Richards is going for.

I enjoyed reading Black City, although I was not pleased about the animal that died. Richards’ writing held a lot of appeal and the world was interesting, though I would have appreciated more back story. I do plan to continue on with this series. If you like really dark tales and true love stories, Black City will be perfect for you.

Favorite Quote:

“No fear, no power.”

31 responses to “Review: Black City”

  1. Anya says:

    Do you prefer books told in the first- or third-person?

    Definitely has that “Starcross’d” vibe going on. Also, I definitely dislike it when I can’t tell who’s narrating. It’s happened to me before– midway through the chapter I’ll be like, “Wait, this doesn’t make sense– wrong POV!” and then I have to go back, reread a little bit, and it’ll make sense.

    On another note: it seems like I’ve been reading a lot of mediocre books lately, 3 stars. I’ve been trying to get my hands on Stormdancer. Maybe I’m just setting my standards too high. Or maybe I should stop picking whatever’s on the shelf at the library and start using the online-search checkout.

    Anyway, keep reading & reviewing! <3

    • Christina says:

      I think I prefer first person. And I really do love multiple perspectives, but it’s really hard to get that right. Really, though, it all depends on the characters and how the narration fits the book.

      Yup. It’s the worst. I always wonder if it’s just me. I’ve looked at a bunch of other reviews of Defiance and no one else had that issue, or at least mentioned it.

      STORMDANCER! I get stuck on reading streaks like that. A bunch of 4-5 stars followed by a string of 2 stars. Sad days.

  2. Risa says:

    Looks like Anya beat me here. 😛 To be fair, I haven’t commented for a while.

    I like the cover, but the Romeo and Juliet-esque thing just doesn’t really do it for me. I like the original Shakespeare, but unless it’s a very, very original spin-off, I kind of scan the pages, etc.

    (If Anya is reading this: yes, you should stop… be like me and judge books by their covers!! jk. miss you dahh-link. *heavy russian accent*)

    • Christina says:

      Well, I don’t think it’s actually a spin-off in anyway, but the whole doomed lovers not allowed to be together (by their society instead of parents, but still) makes me think of it. Especially given them ZOMG WE’LL BE IN LOVE FOREVER EVEN THOUGH WE’RE TEENAGERS thing.

  3. Nori says:

    I was hoping this one would be better! It does have a gorgeous cover! So, I will most likely read it any way. I like the whole vampire/half cat paranormal aspect mixed with dystopia though. that sounds cool. Also, for the longest time I though it was a girl/girl romance! Ash is so a boy’s name. I have known a lot of girls named Ash and I was kinda thinking a forbidden love stories between two girls in this setting sounded awesome…

  4. Well, the story line sounds really good to me. It’s the type of book I’d be drawn to, but maybe it’s not as good as the plot sounds! I think I’ll probably add this one to my to read list though. I have seen the cover several times on other blogs but not a review. I’m glad you did one here 🙂

  5. Lilian says:

    Like Christy, this is the first time I’ve come across a review for this book even though I’ve seen the cover a ton of times (pretty awesome cover, I must admit, even though CITY is spaced out a bit too much for my liking–I know they wanted to make it balance with BLACK, but it isn’t working..)

    EPIC true love angle? Now you got me curious.

    “Natalie seemed a lot more silly and girly from Ash’s perspective than her narration conveyed. “
    Interesting. Is Ash a liar? *dun dun dun* I love multiple narrations for the different perspectives and the biases that each character brings.

    “I was not pleased about the animal that died”
    Funny how the source of your displeasure lies with an animal. ANIMAL LOVER CHRISTINA!

    • Christina says:

      I didn’t pay THAT much attention to the cover, but you are right. The City does look weird.

      I don’t know! True. That is what can be so amazing about multiple narrators.


    • Lilian says:


    • Christina says:



    • Lilian says:

      SO NOW YOU DISCRIMINATE BASED ON FLUFFINESS??? How can snakes and lizards be ADORABLE? Have you heard those geckos that make that annoying clicking sound at night? uggghhhh.

    • Christina says:

      No, we don’t really have geckos up in here. I didn’t say they were adorable, although some are. I SAID they were cuter than babies. Have you heard the sounds babies make? I would take clicking over screeching ANY day.

  6. I remember reading the opening for this book a few months back and I thought it was amazing. It saddens me to read that the rest of book is not as thrilling… and the confusing POVs without distinctive voices put me off a bit. But still, I’m going to give it a chance and read it later!

    Thanks for the review. 🙂

  7. aLilLacey says:

    The cover is awesome but animals dying and it does sound pretty dark. Thanks for the review so i know more about the book.

  8. I’m not reading this review yet since I have yet to write mine, but I think we gave it exactly the same rating. I liked it overall, but I do think it could have been a much stronger book.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • Christina says:

      Totally understand! I don’t like to read reviews then either. This one had moments of awesomeness, and I thought her writing was great, but THE ROMANCE. *throws things*

  9. I don’t know about this one. Some things sound very good, some others just plain annoying (insta-love; vampires?). Or maybe I just got excited about the classics again after reading the excerpt from The Song of Achilles…

    In my early teens I was pretty surprised to discover that Ashley was considered to be a female name in YA contemporary/”fluffy” books from UK/US authors – my brain was all, “What about Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind?”

    • Christina says:

      Oooh, I’m about to read The Song of Achilles. It’s at the top of my non-dystopian review pile.

      Hahaha. Ashley is totally not a commonly accepted name for a guy. In fact, it was one of the most popular female names in my generation.

  10. Yes, since then I’ve read many books (and seen a few movies/TV series) with female characters named Ashley. Still, in my stubborn mind, names should be clearly either male or female; and Ashley Wilkes was the man Scarlett was so obsessed with.

    • Christina says:

      Well, it would be simpler if the names only went for one gender, but they don’t. Two of my best friends have gender non-specific names: Jordan and Casey. Both girls, but it could go either way. :-p

  11. M.A.D. says:

    Huh, don’t know what to think about Black City. It actually sounds kinda interesting, what with all that hazy pleasure and narcotics thing going on lol :O

    But, seriously, it seems like too many books (how many is too many? I dunno) are doing that alternating or multiple POV thing. Sometimes it’s jarring, so maybe I’d better stick to getting this one from the library, if they have it.

    Then AGAIN … I really REALLY like that cover, it would look good on my shelves ;D

  12. minmay7 says:

    I read the first few chapters online but the animal deaths worry me. The last book I read with a lot of animal deaths ( a fox, her cub, a dog..) they were all kind of senseless to the story and annoyed me.

    • Christina says:

      Oh, from what I remember, there’s just one animal death. I don’t think it was particularly necessary for the plot. I didn’t like it. Origin by Khoury has a lot of animal death, and, while it was needed in the plot, it was even more upsetting.

  13. minmay7 says:

    I read the first few chapters of Origin and thought it was interesting as well. I may have to avoid it though. Animal death upsets me way too much. I think I can handle it if it’s just one animal though so I might still give Black City a shot. I’m already the one screaming in the horror movies “save the dog!” Thanks for letting me know how much was in it. It can sometimes ruin a book for me.

    • Christina says:

      Oh yeah, animal death gets to me too. In war books and movies, I shrug off the deaths of the officers, but one horse dies and I am a mess.

      Origin has three scenes of animal death, two of which are pretty long. 🙁

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