Author: Elizabeth Richards
Genre: YA, Paranormal Dystopia, PNR
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (Penguin – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Weeks after his crucifixion and rebirth as Phoenix, Ash Fisher believes his troubles are far behind him. He and Natalie are engaged and life seems good. But his happiness is short-lived when he receives a threatening visit from Purian Rose, who gives Ash an ultimatum: vote in favor of Rose’s Law permanently relegating Darklings to the wrong side of the wall or Natalie will be killed.
The decision seems obvious to Ash; he must save Natalie. But when Ash learns about The Tenth, a new and deadly concentration camp where the Darklings would be sent, the choice doesn’t seem so simple. Unable to ignore his conscience, Ash votes against Rose’s Law, signing Natalie’s death warrant and putting a troubled nation back into the throes of bloody battle.
☆: 4/5 stars – a fantastic followup to book one!
Review: When I read “Black City” in anticipation of reviewing this book, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how very thorough Richards was in pretty much all areas of building her book, her world, and her characters. Happily, “Phoenix” definitely doesn’t disappoint, and really ups the stakes for Ash, Natalie, and the rest of the bunch living in Rose’s state. However, there was one big issue I did take with this book (even though it all worked out in the end), that I thought Richards could have avoided (or used some other plot device to bring about the same reaction/payoff), but otherwise? I really enjoyed “Phoenix”, and I think that fans of “Black City” are going to love it, too.
I’m not going to lie – “Black City” was a very guilty read for me, up until I figured out how Richards was sculpting things. What was really appreciated and what first-time readers that skipped “Black City” was the short but sweet recap of what went down in book one. It’s not very detailed, so those reading “Phoenix” may feel a bit lost with the recap regardless. So I definitely recommend backing up and reading book one before this book to newcomers.
What I took issue with in this book: the love triangle. Or pseudo-love triangle, whatever you might call it. I’m trying not to spoil things too badly, but I really think that Richards could have gotten the same emotional outcome by not using the kind-of-love-triangle as a plot device. There’s other ways of doing that, especially with the kind of problem that Natalie has with Ash. The love triangle really disappointed me, but I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming when a certain catboy came into the mix. That knocked a whole star off just because it was so not needed and just kind of cobbled together. That entire area, in my ARC edition, really needed one good edit to make it a bit smoother. Or at least easier to handle.
The rest? The rest was awesome. I do love the exploration of the idea of an alternate universe United States formed into what we would call a post-American religious dictatorship. The whole idea of vampires (and as we learn later, other mythical creatures coming out of the woodwork) being the ones persecuted in a paranormal dystopia, instead of so many recent books that have it the other way around. It was refreshing. And while I can’t lie when saying it was a bit painful to see parallels being drawn to the Nazi regime (I’m of Jewish heritage, so go figure), it was still powerful, and really knocks it into the readers head: this could happen to us, normal humans, now in real life if we let it. The idea of “never again” that we’ve all learned in real life is also a big theme to this series, and it’s the loudest in this book (compared to book one). I liked that Richards really kept this in our consciousness with whatever the rebels did.
I also liked how far the stakes got pushed in this book. Richards REALLY knows how to torture and kill her darlings – to the point where I was definitely impressed. If you thought the stakes were high in book one – the events of book two really blow all of that out of the water, to the point where I can’t wait to see what happens next. Richards has created a wonderful, paranoid world with layered characters, and aside from the love triangle thing, this book really pleased me.
Final verdict? If you’re tired of what’s become the standard paranormal dystopia with the paranormals in charge, definitely give the “Black City” series a try. Fans of “Black City” are definitely going to love each painful, terrible minute of “Phoenix” – I know I did. “Phoenix” is out from Penguin June 4, 2013 in North America, so be sure to check it out then!