Just because everyone else is all fatigued by vampires and dystopian fiction does not mean that I am. And y’all, I was freakin EXCITED about reading Black City by debut author Elizabeth Richards, because it has both of these things! Unfortunately, despite my OMGANTICIPATION feelings, I did not fall madly in love with Black City, however, I also did not hate it either. It’s more of an underwhelmed sort of feeling that I have towards this book.
In Black City there are two sorts of humans. There are the regular sort of humans, just like you and me. And THEN there are darklings — not to be confused with THE Darkling— who are pretty much vampires, meaning they have vampire like characteristics. The Darklins live apart from the humans in a ghetto. Natalie Buchanan is the daughter of an emissary, so her mom is pretty powerful. Ash Fisher is a half-blood Darkling who lives outside of the ghetto and deals drugs. When the two meet, it’s not exactly love at first sight. However, when Natalie discovers she will be attending school with Ash, she finds herself irresistibly drawn to him and well, obviously as you’ve probably read from the official summary the two fall in love, despite the odds and the trouble it could get them in.
Elizabeth Richards’ Black City alternates between Natalie and Ash’s first person point of views. One of the things that I actually found myself enjoying about Black City was the characterization. I thought I got a pretty strong sense of the two characters from my reading. To me, Ash read as a very angry, very wild character who truly struggles with his lot in life, but does what he can so his family can survive. I actually think I liked his chapters better than Natalie, because I got a true sense of his emotions and his pain. As for Natalie, she also struggles as well, but it’s more against the constraints her mother has put on her. She wants to be able to wander around free without body guards dogging her every move. And while Natalie is also angry, I felt like it didn’t really come from the same deep sort of place as Ash. I will say though, that Natalie does more changing and developing and actually expands her mind and her opinions, so I did admire that.
The society within Black City is very totalitarian. It is your essential dystopian lifestyle. Seriously, there is one guy, Purian Rose who is kind of a dictator who rules over the various provinces and cities with an iron fist. There is a strong curfew. The undesirables, the darklings, are separated out into the ghetto. There’s also a whacked out religious movement as well. Further, there is a strict social hierarchy among the humans, there’s the upperclass and then there is the lower, workboot class. For the most part, I did like reading about the world Elizabeth Richards built. HOWEVER, I might just be oversensitive or easily offended or whatever, but I was honestly vaguely offended over the appropriation of some things from Holocaust history — like there’s a part where a government sponsored PSA is running and one of the slogans is to the tune of ‘Work makes you free’ which was one of the nazi slogans (arbeit macht frei) that was placed on the gates of Auschwitz, and I don’t know maybe I am weird but it really bothered me that this was used. I’m not calling to ban or censor the book though, just sharing my feelings about why I felt kind of uncomfortable while reading. Plus, I don’t think your average reader is going to pick up on this.
I’m really conflicted about the romance in Black City. First, I love the way that it started. I thought Elizabeth Richards did an apt job building tension and attraction, and frankly, I love it when characters fight their attraction for each other. Plus, the kissing scenes were so adorable. However, the romance takes a very weird, very what I would consider awful turn. I did not like the ‘twist’ at all. I thought it really cheapened my enjoyment of the book. Like you guys, the twist is WHACK. And I don’t think I am alone in that conclusion.
Unfortunately, I was not completely won over by Black City. I found myself really wanting to fall head over heels with it. I wanted to be impressed. But alas, a few elements were not my cuppa — from the romance to certain aspects of the world building, I was very ‘eh, it was okay’ about Black City by Elizabeth Richards. At this point, I do not know if I will be reading the sequel, my mind is open, but I’ll wait to see what my fellow bloggers think.
Disclosure: Won as part of a Breathless Reads slip case at Oblong Books
Other reviews of Black City by Elizabeth Richards:
Hobbitsies – “And I loved the first hundred pages or so of Black City.”
The Reading Date – “The writing is smart and engaging and visual”
Bibliophilia, Please – “Black City is not a book without merit.”