Author: Theo Lawrence
Genre: YA, paranormal, dystopian
Publication Date: October 9, 2012 (Random House Children’s – North America)
Source: NetGalley Review Copy
Summary: Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City’s two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents’ sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn’t remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can’t conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.
☆: 4/5 – a great debut for Lawrence!
Review: Ooh, I really liked this one, guys. “Mystic City” has it all – star-crossed lovers, magic, witches, NO love triangle, a very original setting and premise, and a sympathetic main character. For those looking for a mix of new and old all rolled together in a refreshing new sorbet of a book, I strongly suggest you pick up “Mystic City”.
What I loved the most about this book, and yet what needed the most work was the worldbuilding. It was beautiful and very detailed, but in terms of one of the most important aspects, backstory, I felt like it could have been better. We know about the Great Conflagration, but we don’t know exactly when it took place. We know about how the mystics came out of the closet, and when that was, so we know this is kind of an alternative universe to our own. But we don’t know where we are in time now in terms of when the mystics came out/World War I, and this Conflagration. We don’t know if it’s US-only or if it’s all of North America. I wanted to be a little more firmly rooted in terms of the timeline of events within the world itself leading up to Aria and Hunter’s story. The rest of the worldbuilding, however, was absolutely gorgeous – and Lawrence definitely has a talent with combining that with sensory imagery and language. I wanted to be in the Aeries, down in the Depths, and everywhere in between. I wanted to wear the clothes and eat the food and feel the magic. All of it. Even horrible and pretty oppressive to the mystics, I wanted to experience it. And I got as close as I could through Lawrence’s words.
On the other hand, I also do understand why there are such large parts of the backstory undeveloped – there’s a second book coming next summer, and I’m hoping that there will be more information given there. Still, for a first book, not bad, but at the same time, I just wanted more.
The plot and the individual character arcs were well executed and easy to follow, though there were some twists I did see coming, and some I definitely did NOT see coming. I liked the semi-LGBTQ twist that came near the end of the book, though I wished that it hadn’t been one of Hunter’s tricks and that Lawrence had actually gone through with that gay kiss and all of the feels that come with it. I was really disappointed in that particular twist in terms of how it ended, though I’m trying not to spoil it for you guys. I hope that there will be more LGBTQ characters and action in book two. I also loved the way the conspiracy unraveled – and the last quarter of the book was where things came together the most, and where I was the most absorbed. The images have stayed with me even though Mr. Nook is now off and quiet, and I want to go back to that world as soon as possible.
I liked the way Aria grew as a character, same for Thomas, the Roses and the Fosters, and everyone involved with them. I liked the mystics we got to see (Hunter and Turk were wonderful, though Davida could have used just a little teeny bit more character construction), and the history we did get to hear. However, I feel the mystics as a whole people could have been more developed in this first book – while we got a lot of essential information in well-spaced bits (and thankfully, not large infodumps), I feel like at times they served as a placeholder in comparison to normal humans, both depthshods (the poor) and those in the Aeries (the rich). I could have used less of those comparisons and more on the mystics themselves, or their joint history with regular humans pre-and-post GC. What we got was adequate, but the placeholder business did start to gnaw at me.
The main issue, period, I guess, I was underdevelopment in certain crucial areas. But the rest – characters, character arcs, main plot, sensory imagery and language – were all absolutely stellar, top shelf, and addictive.
Final verdict? This is a great, refreshing bite of paranormal dystopia, and I really enjoyed it despite some of its more underdeveloped shortcomings. Definitely count me in for book two. “Mystic City” is out now from Random House in North America, so DEFINITELY check it out. It’s in good company on my best of 2012 list, so it’s definitely worth the read.