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Black City (Black City Chronicles)

Black City - Elizabeth  Richards 4 stars.

I have roughly eleven thousand notes for Black City, but I will try to keep this review concise and to the point. Here it is:

I love Ash Fisher.

Right away, this story (and Ash) pulled me in.
"You paid Beetle?" I interrupt.

The girl nods.

"Terms and conditions," I say. "No refunds. You don't enjoy it, you puke, you freak--not my problem, okay?"

She nods again.

"You pregnant?" She blushes furiously. "I'll take that as a no. It may cause drowsiness, so don't drive or operate any heavy machinery." She smiles at this, and I grin. They always like that. "And no repeats for at least two weeks, all right? I mean it."

"That all?"

"No kissing. Strictly business, okay?"

The moment I read that, I thought to myself what the hell kind of book have I gotten myself into?

Black City is one of nine megastates in the United Sentry States. It is inhabited by humans, Darklings (otherwise known as vampires), and one twin-blood that's a mixture of both: Ash Fisher.

Several years ago, there was a war, and most of the Darklings were driven out by the government. Many of them were shipped off to concentration camps in the Barren Lands beyond the city. Now, the only Darklings that are allowed to live inside the city are owned by humans as slaves servants; all of the others are forced to live in the ghetto behind a giant wall that separates them from the basic necessities of life, like proper shelter, food, and clothing. Relationships between humans and Darklings is punishable by death, but that isn't enough to keep Natalie Buchanan and Ash Fisher apart.

Natalie arrived in Black City with her sister and mother, who is a government Emissary. She and Ash have a brief run-in at the very beginning of the book before seeing each other at school. Because she's the daughter of the government set on keeping his people in oppression and he's "an animal", they couldn't be any more different. Though they seem to hate each other, something happens when they touch: they bump heads and his once dormant heart starts to beat. And when their connection intensifies:
Desire and guilt wage a war inside me, and I'm torn between wanting her and my loyalty to my species. She's a Sentry. This is so wrong! And yet I'm unable to control myself. My fingers brush over her smooth skin, running past the dimple on her left cheek before finding the soft fullness of her lips.

"Ash," she sighs, tilting her head up.

Her lips touch mine. They barely make contact, but a force like a lightning bolt shoots through them and straight into my heart. An explosion of pain erupts inside my chest. Natalie stumbles back, and I know she's as stunned as I am because that's when I feel it:

A second heartbeat pounding inside my chest.

Turns out that Darklings have Blood Mates (which are like humans' Soul Mates), and when they recognize them, their second heart triggers. Before meeting Natalie, Ash had no heartbeat.

So Ash and Natalie went from practically hating each other to instantly being in love. Of course, things are always more complicated than they seem, and one such complication comes in the form of a beautiful twin-blood named Evangeline:
A girl walks out of the shadows into the red light, her midnight-blue hair flowing down to her waist. Evangeline. Something stirs inside me at the sight of her, and I quickly force the feeling aside.

I'm not going to give you the entire rest of the story, but rest assured that Evangeline throws a wrench into this star-crossed love affair. This story was intense, with so much world-building, and the intent behind everything is amazing. Unfortunately, some of this falls flat for me and I was left wanting...more.

I absolutely believe in love at first sight, and I definitely would be okay with insta-love, even if it doesn't make sense before they fall in love. Typically when that happens, the other characters question how they could be together, but the couple in love should know absolutely that they have to be together. What would have happened if Romeo questioned his love for Juliet? We wouldn't have believed that he was willing to give up everything or felt that he would be nothing without her, right? We're supposed to believe that Ash and Natalie have this epic romance that defies class and even species and yet both of them question their connection. They way they felt about each other was explained, but I didn't see the evidence of those feelings. I wanted more than word and actions that were constantly being taken back or trampled on. #fail

There were a few other things that I didn't like, including how careless they were with their safety and how unrealistic I feel the adults were. I also didn't like some of their word choices, or that they were repeated so. many. times.

One thing that I did truly enjoy (besides how much I loved Ash) is how well the actual world worked. I love dystopian societies, and I love this one. One thing that really, really works here is that the peoples' oppression really makes sense, for both the humans and the Darklings. There should be constant reminders for what will happen if they don't follow the rules, and Black City does that perfectly. There are bodies hanging from the wall, warning Darklings and humans alike not to try to cross to the other side as well as a public execution of people who commit a "crime" and the person who harbored them as fugitives. It's gruesome, but very effective.

Harry Potter fans won't be able to miss the several references sprinkled throughout this book. From Blood Traitors to Bastet (Basilisk) Venom, to a statue of their leader standing on a pile of dead Darklings, there are many similarities. And when Natalie befriends a girl from the working-class at school, a boy tells her that he can "set her up with the right type of people know," reminding me so much of this boy:

In spite of the things that happened that I didn't like, I can't wait to read Phoenix and find out what happens next.