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Phoenix (Black City) Hardcover – June 4, 2013
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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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The world Elizabeth Richards has created is absolutely amazing. It is dark and twisted and dangerous and nobody is ever safe. She doesn’t shy away from that danger and there is absolutely no guarantee that any characters will make it out alive. There are so many twists and turns along the way, it is impossible to see where the story is going. It is such a perfect combination of dystopian and paranormal. The world embodies everything you expect from a dystopian, but the addition of darklings and other creatures really makes it stand out.
My favorite character of them all is Ash. He is such a great character and my heart hurt for him in this one. He is put through so much and he cannot seem to catch a break. Nothing ever goes smoothly for him. I did get frustrated when he jumped to conclusions, but I do get it. What else was he expected to think? He loves Natalie so much and the thought of losing her absolutely crushes him. I love how much he loves Natalie. It’s adorable and so romantic.
Natalie is the one I truly struggled with in this book. I really wanted to knock some sense into her. My gosh. I cannot remember the last time I was this frustrated with a character. At first I understood where she was coming from, but then I just couldn’t take it anymore. She was being incredibly selfish. She knew Ash had jumped to the wrong conclusion and did nothing to stop him from thinking that because she thought the truth would be worse. Fun fact; the truth is never the worse option. All of their problems could have been solved with a simple conversation and because of that it drove me bonkers.
The ending to Phoenix will leave you dying to pick up Wings. It’s not a full blown cliffhanger, but it’s pretty close. I have so many questions and the revelations have me dying for answers. I need more!
Phoenix is a great follow up to Black City and this one does not suffer from middle book syndrome at all. It starts off action packed and keeps it up until the very end. There is no slow down and it perfectly sets up the big show down we know is coming. Simply put, this book was awesome.
Not much time has passed since Black City, time is moving forward though and Ash has become a huge public figure for Darkling rights and has become known as Phoenix since he was reborn from ashes after his execution. He intends to take Purian Rose down, with Natalie at his side, and their followers--the end to the segregation and mistreatment of Darklings will finally be at an end.
But before the vote even takes place, things get dicey. Like when Rose threatens Natalie's life if Ash doesn't vote in favor of Rose's Law. And the voting isn't a secret thing either. The citizens of the cities, all publicly vote by placing their ballot in a yes or no box. So Rose will know if Ash obeys or not. I first thought the voting was a private thing and was like, how is Rose going to know what Ash votes for? Problem answered.
It's after the voting is done in all the cities when the real danger starts. Chaos reigns over the United Sentry States. People--supporters of Ash and Darkling rights--are being killed by Rose's soldiers. Natalie, Ash and their friends are all Public Enemy #1, and since there's a lot of them, there's a lot of #1's! Rose is calling for their heads and offering rewards for turning them in. Dead or alive, but preferable alive so Rose can take pleasure in tormenting them.
Soon, Natalie and Ash agree to help Elijah find the Ora, along with finding his mother, so that they can try to put a stop to Rose's reign. The supposed love triangle that is Elijah-Natalie-Ash, is one I couldn't really see. True, there is some sort of chemistry between Elijah and Natalie, perhaps because she freed him from his prison cell last go around, but I just didn't really feel like there was anything between them. There were those almost maybe moments, but nothing that made me be Team Elijah.
Unfortunately, there is a secret Natalie begins to harbor, and in keeping that secret things begin to spiral out of her control and a wedge is thrust between her and Ash. It becomes one of those misunderstandings that really gets out of hand and everyone is upset with one another for the wrong reasons. It gets chaotic!! Kind of drove me insane because I kept wanting Natalie to straighten things out and tell Ash her secret, that way the drama wouldn't be necessary. But alas, that's not how things work out. Plus it would remove a hell of a lot of conflict from the story.
The romance in this one, before Natalie and Ash get into their little love spat, was pretty good. There's definitely passion between Natalie and Ash that was enjoyable to read. And it was tasteful too. Nothing overly drawn out or just thrown in there for the purpose of having something intimate. It was nice.
There were quite a few surprises in this one! I did see one coming and there's that kind of joy you get when you know you're right! But at the same time it is still shocking! It's like OMG...I knew it!! There were quite a few casualties too that totally blew me away. Elizabeth is not afraid to add a bit of gore to her story, which I found kind of shocking since it's YA. But again, YA has definitely changed since my teen days, but I love having the abundance of it all now despite my age!
I have to say that the pacing was just fabulous! It was all intense. And the action scenes were plentiful! There was rarely a dull moment. So much was happening, and the trio was constantly on the run and trying to stay out of Sebastian and his group's reach as they raced across the country.
There are some cliffhangers in this one. We still get chapters from Ash and Natalie and each ended on a cliffhanger. So it's going to be an agonizing wait until the third book comes out and I think it's the last one. Trilogies are popular in YA and I am pretty sure this is going to be one as well.
The next and possible last book is definitely going to be good! I am really hoping to see a lot more action, get some questions answered, resolutions and all that good jazz with the happy ending, but I also want to see a few of these enemies get theirs! Yeah, reading too much has definitely drawn out a dark side in me! There are just those characters that you love to hate and want to see die or at the very least suffer incredibly!
Overall Rating 4.5/5 stars