In the aftermath of a terrible, bloody war in the still-smoldering Black City, Natalie Buchanan and Ash Fisher do the unthinkable – they fall in love. Natalie, a human and the daughter of a government official, is still reeling from her father’s murder by a crazed Darkling, upending her entire life. So how can she now be fallin for Ash, a brooding half-blood Darkling boy? Natalie’s heart betrays everything she’s ever believed with on magnetic beat, forcing her to choose between her family and the boy she loves.
Ash tries desperately to deny his feelings for Natalie. She is a Sentry brat, after all. The very Sentry who would love nothing more than to see all Darklings totally eradicated from the United Sentry States. For now, they’ve settled for banishing all Darklings to the wrong side of a ghetto wall. Despite being half-human and being allowed to live on the human side, Ash is still scorned everywhere he goes, always wondering what it would be like on the other side of the wall. Then Natalie steps into his life, a calming force, and he too has to choose. But choosing Natalie could get them both killed.
Black City by Elizabeth Richards is one of those books that drags you into a world and doesn’t let you go until you’ve turned the last page – and even then, you’re wishing for the sequel right now.
Black City is told through a dual point of view – our main characters Natalie and Ash, a human and a Darkling (think interesting type of vampire). This really allows you to get a good feel for both characters, but I have to admit, Ash’s chapters were my favourite. Ash is that mysterious bad boy who’s smart, kind, but can be quick to anger and oh yes, is a drug dealer (mind you, he doesn’t do it for kicks. He needs the money for himself and his father to buy food, clothes, etc.). Natalie on the other hand is independent, fairly level headed and strong, a bit prone to jealousy, but loves fiercely and will do what’s right. Ash and Natalie have this forbidden-love going on. And while I rate the book an overall 5, because I did love it and couldn’t put it down, Natalie and Ash’s romance is probably the only blip in the experience. At the beginning, it’s wonderful. No insta-love, but an insta-crush (which is fine by me!) and they snark, fight, get butterflies, all that good stuff. Until halfway through the book – boom. Blood mates. Meant-to-be! So yes, kind of wishing Elizabeth Richards had kept to the “it’s my choice” relationship, but she did manage to mesh the two concepts well in the end. Especially after a huge twist!
The beginning of the book drops the reader right into this gritty world of Black City, and the drama/horrors just continue: drugs, genocide, torture, murder, poverty, experimentation…war. The world’s history is sprinkled throughout the narrative rather than in huge info dumps, which is wonderful. I don’t need to know every little bit of backstory in order to be involved and enjoy the plot and characters. Black City is not a sunshine and puppies love story. The world that Ash and Natalie live in is pretty bleak. Ash’s people, the Darklings (he’s half) are kept segregated behind a wall, in a Ghetto. The head of their government and church rules with an iron fist as a dictator – dissenters and law breakers are not just executed, they’re crucified, and his word is law. The corruption and fear running through Black City, the government and the history of Black City‘s world is staggering. The end of the book is heartbreaking and the scenes are intense.
Black City by Elizabeth Richards is a captivating debut novel. Parallels to real world history are present in the events that are taking place and it’s crushing. There are so many glimpses of hope and future happiness only to have them overshadowed by the despair of the living conditions in Black City and the knowledge that the Darklings are still, and all-too likely will remain, segregated. With amazing descriptions, vivid imagery and emotion and characters that you can’t help but root for, Black City is a promising start to a series, and I am highly anticipating the sequel!
ARC received at Book Expo America from Penguin. Thank you!