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Monday, January 28, 2013

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Black City by Elizabeth Richards

Title: Black City
Author: Elizabeth Richards
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: November 13 2012
Publishing House: G.P. Putnam Son's BYR
ISBN: 9780399159435
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


In the aftermath of a brutal and bloody war, in the still-smoldering Black City, sixteen-year-olds 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 be falling for Ash, a brooding half-blood Darkling boy? Natalie's heart betrays everything she's ever believed with one 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 loves 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 with his own kind. Then Natalie steps into his life, a calming force, and he, too, has to choose. But choosing Natalie could get them both killed.

A page-turning and passionate romance set in a mesmerizing and perilous world, Black City is a rich atmospheric read not be missed.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


When I cracked open Black City, I prepared myself for a Romeo and Juliet type of story - judging from the premise - and on that point, Black City did not disappoint. But I admit that there was more to the book than just the sappy romance and I was pleasantly surprised.

Black City is told in the dual POV's of Natalie - human, Sentry brat, daughter of the Emissary - and Ash, a Twin-blood. It starts with Natalie stumbling upon Ash feeding on a girl, their eyes meet and then Ash has a Warm Bodies moment - you know that scene where he looks at the girl and his supposedly not-beating heart suddenly starts up? Yeah, that scene. Then, as fate would have it, the two are thrown together - pawns in a deadly game of politics played by corrupt government officials plus true love to make things more dramatic.

What I like about Black City is how the author just drops readers into the middle of things and it took me a bit to figure out what everyone was talking about. While it was frustrating during the first few pages, it worked out for me in the end. What I also found quite interesting were the parallels that our society and Black City seemed to share - corruption, religious zealots, ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination, and persecution. Personally, I'm glad Richards decided to tackle all these instead of just sticking to the Romeo and Juliet theme, thus making things more intriguing. The world building was well done; I could easily picture the wall that separates the humans from the Darklings both literally - yes there's an actual wall - and figuratively - racial discrimination and the like. The tension between the two races was apparent and the city they live in rife with danger, violence and racial segregation. Admittedly I also liked the differences and similarities in the Darkling and human culture - both equally capable of such cruelty that it paints their actions in shades of grey and blurs the lines between right and wrong; both willing to do whatever they have to survive.

So what's keeping me from giving Black City a higher rating? The characters. Ash and Natalie start out hating each other, what with their differences in social standing, I think that much was expected. What I didn't really get behind was their romance and how quickly it seemed to progress. Ash started out hating Natalie - despite his Warm Bodies moment - and made it a point to avoid her. But obviously, the two are drawn together by their inexplicable yet unexplainable attraction to one another and soon find themselves in love. It happened so fast really - one minute he hated her then the next they were kissing and confessing their love for each other.   This romance took up around half of the story with Natalie going on and on about Ash and Ash rambling on about how bad he wanted Natalie.  Aside from that I think Natalie - who was such a spoiled brat at the beginning - and Ash - whom I liked better - are pretty decent characters but that's just about it. The secondary characters were a bit more interesting. Let's take Natalie's mother, for instance. I don't condone what she did but I believe that it was borne of desperation and a mother's need to protect her daughters. But overall, the characters were just characters and for the most part, I was indifferent to them.

Told in the alternating views of Natalie and Ash, Black City is a book filled with forbidden love, a myriad of social conditions, and deadly political manipulation where both sides will do whatever it takes to stay alive, and the blurring of lines between right and wrong.



  1. Super review :) Glad it's more than a sappy romance, I've been thinking of picking Black City when I get through my TBR list. Sounds like it's worth a whirl.

    1. It is! But sometimes the romance just overshadows the plot and it's tiring listening to Ash pine for Natalie and vise versa.

  2. Great review! :D
    I would have liked Black City A LOT better if the romance wasn't done that way. I also loved how Elizabeth Richards just throws everything at you and you need to figure out what the characters are talking about yourself.
    Hopefully Phoenix loses the sappy "I love you so much" and "I can't live without you."

    1. Thank you! I found the romance a tad bit too much and yes, I agree - I hope Phoenix focuses less on the romance or at least makes it sound more believable. :)

  3. Nicole, I am glad you enjoyed this and it had more depth that you originally thought. This one is on my wishlist.

    1. I know, it isn't of the best dystopian reads out there but it's certainly interesting - worth a read.