Published on February 6, 2018 by Del Rey
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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A corrupted city. A dark dream of power.
Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his mind. But as the Jardines tighten their grip on a turbulent Britain, brother and sister face a fight greater than their own.
New alliances and old feuds will remake the nation, leaving Abi and Luke questioning everything – and everyone – they know. And as Silyen Jardine hungers for the forgotten Skill of the legendary Wonder King, the country’s darkest hour approaches. Freedom and knowledge both come at a cost. So who will pay the price?
I’m a bit disappointed with Tarnished City. The first in the series, Gilded Cage, held potential to kick off a great series but much like many a sequel, this book fell short. And it begins with the plot.
Have you ever read a book that didn’t really go anywhere? I felt that way with Tarnished City, as if I was being turned in circles until the very end when FINALLY something big happened. The last quarter of the book (maybe not even that much, to be honest) was fantastic. Not only were tensions high but things were happening, I was intrigued. I needed more. And THAT ENDING. I was finally hooked.
A little too late.
The first 75% of the book lacked that excitement. I’m not talking constant action scenes because I don’t need that, but I do need the stakes to be upped from the first book, for there to be a drive, a reason to want to follow these characters. I didn’t get that until the end which is good in terms of engaging readers to pick up the upcoming third book but not so good when it comes to my faith in this series to really bring it home.
I’ll say this, though: James didn’t pull her punches when it came to the content. I thought Gilded Cage was gloriously dark but Tarnished City takes it a step further into the land of gritty and gruesome. This book may not be suited to younger readers, though that’s ultimately up to you. While I enjoyed the fact that James didn’t gloss over the underside of this world, at times it didn’t flow either and felt thrown in for shock value rather than a necessary plot point.
As for the characters. . . I still don’t like Luke. I find him boring. Sure, he does some exciting things but I don’t care about him. I’m not invested, therefore his chapters became a chore to get through. His sister, Abi, on the other hand, was much more interesting especially at the end. She’s the intelligent, determined heroine I enjoy reading about. I’m also glad we got in the head of Silyen because the enigma that he is drove me crazy last book. Out of all the characters, he’s the one I want to follow. A bit morally gray with plenty of secrets, he makes me want to know more. I’m hooked. And even his brother (I won’t spoil which one) became a person of interest, as well as one of the reasons I still plan to read book 3.
If you read Gilded Cage, expect some of the same pacing issues but a much darker story. While it wasn’t a bad sequel, it didn’t impress, acting as the set-up for the finale. Which, if it’s anything like the end of Tarnished City, could be the best book in the series. But in terms of this book, it felt like too much filler for my tastes.