Hardcover, 384 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR
Source: ARC provided by Publisher
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.
Reading this was a painful experience. I cringed my way through the novel and I will try to explain why I couldn’t get into the story. I may end up making a garbled argument that you will not understand but in any case, I urge you to make your own mind.
The synopsis of the novel excited me a whole bunch because I still like vampires. I like them even though they never seem to be represented well in young adult fiction – I have yet to read a vampire I can like, honestly. Anyway, Black City presented me with Darklings and Ash, a twin-blood – human and vampire. What is up with the name Ash and young adult love interests anyway? Well, I guess as long as it’s not John. Ash has many issues, the biggest one of them being that he lives in a city where he is treated as something worse than scum. The city has been divided by a huge wall which keeps Darklings (aka vampires) on one side and the humans on the other. Oh, and Ash gets to live on the human side due to his human part. Hur.
Then there is Natalie. The daughter of the grand dame in charge of the city. I think her mother is called the Sentry. The mother is all kinds of horrible and just reinforces the age old trope that any woman in power is corrupt and bound to go evil. Anyway, the mother may just get worst mother ever award but who knows, we may find a better candidate somewhere down the line. Natalie is…I want to say flaccid. She has no personality. She is protected by pretty boys, one of them a glorious specimen of ego called Sebastian. I have a predilection towards feisty heroines so I may be biased but seriously, the girl does not redeem herself in a way I could totally get behind.
When you put Ash and Natalie together, you get an explosion and something called Blood Mates. Which is a creepy way of saying Soul Mates. Natalie makes Ash’s heart pound for the first time ever only that doesn’t work because Natalie’s heart is not even hers. Her evil mother stole it from a female twin-blood who didn’t need it. So in actuality Natalie is not the Blood Mate but Evangeline is. Ash is full of desire for Evangeline and proceeds to snog her quite enthusiastically in front of Natalie until he gets bitten by the flea of remorse and makes like a drenched Romeo. He finally wins Natalie over cuz it’s true lurve and all and then there proceeds to be some killing and confessing and noble idiocy. But no one dies because Ash is cool like that and the book ends with the main villain dude finally making an appearance and throwing around threats that sound like something a tired Bollywood villain would say.
The novel is full of clichés with cardboard characters and plot turns that feel staged and not organic to the world. There are parts that are potentially interesting, for example, whatever happened in the mountains or wherever Natalie’s dad took the Darklings to kill or to keep, that story would have been interesting to read but this whole Natalie/Ash fiasco is a tired reiteration of teenage drama and angst. The writing is choppy and the transitions are awkward. The characterizations…what characterizations? It reads like an extremely bad soap opera and I really think you ought to skip this one but who am I to stop you from your pleasures? Natalie thinks that the Darkling servant her family keeps should feel honored to wear an ID bracelet that announces her servitude. Ash snacks on drugged up girls for breakfast. Natalie loves her mother despite being treated like trash and telling her that she doesn’t love her as much as she loves her sister. I can understand the loving part – I just don’t get the lack of anger and bitterness. Is that normal to anyone besides long-suffering, weakly developed young adult novel protagonists?
Look, this is my review so I’m just going to say it. I didn’t like the book. A lot. The above should illuminate the reasons why but in case it doesn’t, just take my word for it. Okay?