From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-In this follow-up to Black City (Putnam, 2012), half-Darkling Ash and human Natalie continue to pursue their forbidden romance while fighting totalitarian ruler Purian Rose. In a dystopia newly revealed as an alternate North America, Ash has become a walking symbol for unity, and each side has acquired new allies: the wolflike Lupines sniff out Rose's enemies while the feline Bastets join the resistance. After a rigged vote gives Rose a mandate for racial segregation, Ash and Natalie set off to find a hidden biological weapon. Jealousy soon erupts when Ash suspects Natalie of cheating on him with their new companion, Bastet Elijah. The writing is sloppy, details are inconsistent or unexplained, and decontextualized references to World War II (children relocated by train, undesirables referred to as "vermin") rankle. Promising plot points are introduced and then seemingly abandoned, but the conclusion ties up loose ends and provides a ready opening for the third book. As was the case in Black City, pithy phrases abound ("Hope isn't a luxury I have anymore")-and although constant misunderstandings between Ash and Natalie provide narrative tension, readers might wonder why this supposedly strong relationship is so devoid of honesty and trust. The amplified emotions, perpetual narrow escapes, and paranormal love triangle will attract teens craving a pastiche of familiar elements from Twilight and The Hunger Games, but those looking for nuance or originality will want to seek out more sophisticated alternatives.-Jill Ratzan, I. L. Peretz Community Jewish School, Somerset, NJα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The second title in the Black City series is stronger and tighter than the debut, and it finds human heroine Natalie and her Darkling love interest, Ash, in a breathless race to find peace for the people of Black City. After the relentless events of Black City (2012), Natalie and Ash are still battling with the evil Purian Rose (think President Snow of The Hunger Games) and his power-mad quest to rule his self-designed kingdom. Rose’s Law—meant to enact the brutal segregation of Darklings in order to exert further physical as well as mind control over all citizens—is Purian Rose’s tool to use Ash in his newly minted role of the Phoenix, as he is dubbed after surviving crucifixion. As a symbol of hope to the downtrodden masses, Ash is pivotal to Rose’s desire to see the law pass. If Ash doesn’t publicly vote for it, Natalie will pay the consequences. But Ash and Natalie are strong, clever, and determined to prevail. The ongoing struggle between good and bad is delineated with heart-thumping action and strong plotting. A cliff-hanger ending will have fans eager for the next installment. Grades 9-12. --Julie Trevelyan
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