I found myself very drawn to the premise of this book. I thought about the book while I wasn't reading it and was eager to return to the pages. For me, that was enough to overcome some flaws and make this a book I'd recommend and one whose sequel I'm interested to read.
The writing is grim and gritty in places, and the first scene definitely sets a slightly shocking tone for younger or more sensitive readers. As I am a fan of grim and gritty, this didn't bother me, and I was eager to explore the world of Black City and the fascinating set-up of Darklings (which are basically vampiric creatures) who lost what amounted to a civil war against the humans and are now segregated behind barrier walls inside each state. There are some compelling questions about race and classicism, when to speak out against a steady decline in personal freedoms, and the true nature of enduring love.
I really enjoyed the character of Ash, the boy POV who shares narrating duties with his love interest, Natalie. Ash is smart, damaged, and torn between the human world, where he's been raised, and the Darking world of his mother. Ash is a twin-blood, a child of a human and a Darkling, and is the only twin-blood he knows of since relationships between humans and Darklings are now forbidden. I found his struggle to understand his own nature and the natures of others, and his fight to figure out the difference between being a survivor and being a hero, very compelling. He is what made this story work for me.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The world building left me confused in places, and that's a shame because I am a fan of this premise. I was never clear on where the Darklings came from (Is this an alternate history U.S.? Did something happen to create Darklings?). I was also confused a few times on the descriptions of Black City (There's a scene where fires are referenced as if they're still burning, but I have no idea where those fires came from.) and a few of the political hi-jinks going on weren't fully explained or felt like they came out of nowhere.
I also felt like we skipped a few of the most crucial and most interesting scenes. There's an important arrest, and a scene where people are fighting, and a few others where one chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger (Perfect for drawing the reader into the next chapter!) but then we skip the good stuff and jump forward a few days in time to the next scene. I felt a bit cheated as a reader because these scenes were part of the big payoff I'd been waiting for. I'd love to read all the good bits, the action, the arrests, the battles etc. and not have them summarized for me later.
Black City has a very compelling premise and some fascinating characters. The story isn't afraid to tackle some difficult race, class, and socio-economic issues within the framework of a dark, gritty story that, despite a few flaws, kept me turning pages until the end.