Serena’s Review: “The City of Dusk”

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Book: “The City of Dusk” by Tara Sim

Publishing Info: Orbit, March 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city.

But their defiance will cost them dearly.

Review: While I’m always a bit skeptical of these books focused on a large cast of characters, they are also a bit unavoidable in fantasy fiction right now. And there are examples of ones done better than others. The fact that this is marketed as an adult fantasy novel does help, I think. Fair or not, I’ve seen more YA fiction struggle to create an interesting cast of characters than adult fantasy fiction. Though, there are exceptions, of course. “All of Us Villains” comes to mind. Let’s dive in!

Four families with four gods. Each god with a unique power that is bestowed on their family. And each family with an heir to the throne. But as the King approaches the end of his reign, each knows that they will be a contender to take up the crown after him. However, political machinations and worries of the material world quickly fall beneath an ongoing conflict brewing within the gods’ halls themselves. Now, the four heirs of the four families must decide what to do when the gods themselves seem to have abandoned them. With a city crumbling around them and the future perilous to consider, will they find themselves as allies? Or enemies?

So, first of all, this book is marketed as an adult fantasy novel. This really made it stand out of the pack for me, since most of the multi-POV fantasy stories over the last several years have all fallen solidly in the YA category. But I have to say, I feel like I was sold on a false product. If no one had told me this was being marketed as adult, I would have been almost 100% confident that it was yet another YA novel. The characters, their stories, and the general approach to their relationships with each other all felt decidedly YA. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I found it particularly frustrating since I went in expecting an adult fantasy novel and was excited about that. Honestly, don’t try this kind of trickery and just call a book what it is. And this was YA.

That aside, I did like a lot of what this book had to offer. The world was intricate and detailed. And the magic system, while somewhat familiar with its various “schools” of magic, felt unique enough to have me engaged with how exactly this all worked. The necromancers and their role in society was particularly interesting. Often, these types of characters are just straight up villains. So it was interesting to read a story where they were a functioning and established part of society that had their own important roles to play.

All of the characters were also solid enough. I definitely had preferences for a few of the women characters, but I didn’t actively dislike any of them (something I often struggle with in multi-POV books.) Here too were a few surprises as there were characters who showed up with POVs who aren’t mentioned in the book description and don’t come along until well into the book, making their appearance rather surprising.

There wasn’t a lot of romance in this book, but I was happy enough with what we got. I do wish there had been a more solid love story line here, as I think that a good romantic subplot can help carry a story that has a slower pace. And that right there is one of my biggest criticisms of this book. I honestly feel like it was marketed as an adult book simply because of how long and slow-paced it is. It honestly took a decent strength of will to get through it. And that’s not because it was boring, but there was just so much of it. As a debut, the author is playing a rather risky hand putting out a book like this. You really have to hope that reader’s can jump onboard early to stick it out through the slower pacing and long page count. I managed it, but I worry that some more casual fantasy fans might not want to stick this one out.

In the end, I think this was a solid fantasy story. I think the marketing of it as an adult book is going to bite it a bit since adult readers will immediately recognize the very YA feel of the book. And the dedicated YA readers might be missing out on something that they would enjoy but that has been shelved in the adult section. I also think the length will be a challenge for some. But fantasy readers who like epic tales and enjoy multi-POV stories, this one is probably worth checking out!

Also, don’t forget to enter to win a copy of this book in the giveaway we’re currently running!

Rating 7: A bit slow and too long, but a solid concept at its heart. Fans of epic political fantasy are likely to enjoy this!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The City of Dusk” is on these Goodreads lists: Best LGBTQIA High Fantasy and 2022 Anticipated Fiction Fantasy Reads.

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