Black City Elizabeth Richards Book Review

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.

Black City Elizabeth Richards Book Cover

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.

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Oh, shoot. This was one I put off because I thought I’d love it but was afraid to start it (I’m weird that way…). Now I kind of don’t want to start it because I’m afraid it’s going to irritate me.

    I can definitely see why the subtle Nazi vibe with the slogans would make you uncomfortable. I wonder if it was deliberate or one of those unconscious things?

    • Well, maybe you will still love it. I mean, there’s quite a few bloggers who truly loved this book, and honestly, more power to them because every book has it’s reader.

      See, I didn’t see it as promoting nazism AT ALL, but it was just well, I know my history very, VERY well and I picked up on that was squicked out by it. I’m hoping it was unconscious.

  2. Yeah, I felt pretty meh about this one too, like it had promise, but instead it was all about the cheesy romance. Ugh….

    Oh man, my review would be so different now after the points you and Jenni made. She was offended by the appropriation of things from slavery and you from the Holocaust. None of that was necessarily well-handled, though I was not in the mental state to pick up on that at the time. Maybe if the world had been darker it would have worked. Instead it was about the romance and not the awfulness so much and it just felt sensational or something.

    Bahaha, the twist is whack, but I like anything that can make them stop being so sappy all over each other, so…eh.

  3. Hm. I’ve seen the cover of this one around for a while and think it totally rocks. But haven’t read the synopsis. It sounds pretty awesome. That sucks that it didn’t turn out to be as good as you’d hope though! I’d still like to give it a whirl, but probably am not going to rush out quite as fast to go read it.

  4. This is the first I’ve heard of this book. Hm, doesn’t really sound worth the time, but I’ll keep my eye out for other reviews too.

  5. This is the first I’ve heard of this book. Hm, doesn’t really sound worth the time, but I’ll keep my eye out for other reviews too.

  6. I’m sorry to hear you weren’t whelmed by this book, but you gotta admit, as far as cheesy vampire romance novels go, it’s up there. I feel that this is a book, like Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater and Altered World: A girl named Trouble by Fey Truet, that needs a chance. The book gives off one impression and leaves another. I liked Black City so much that I read the sequel.


  1. […] which I am not very overly enthusiastic about Black City by Elizabeth […]

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