Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing The City of Dusk by Tara Sim, which was the first installment of a new dark epic fantasy trilogy.
The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.
But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.
Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city.
But their defiance will cost them dearly.
Set in a gorgeous world of bone and shadow magic, of vengeful gods and defiant chosen ones, The City of Dusk is the first in a dark epic fantasy trilogy that follows the four heirs of four noble houses—each gifted with a divine power—as they form a tenuous alliance to keep their kingdom from descending into a realm-shattering war.
***Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for providing a copy of the book. This review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This book was a bit of a roller coaster ride. There were many moments, especially in the first third of the book, where I lamented the slow pace and feeling like I wasn’t making any progress despite reading for what seemed like forever. Despite it feeling slow, the reading experience itself was fantastic, though, because of the interesting world-building, wonderful characters, and beautiful prose. Then the threads of the plot began to unravel in ways I didn’t expect, and I was sucked into the story so completely I stopped caring about the length and never wanted to put it down. By the end I had the opposite problem from at the beginning. There was so much going on I had a hard time trying to keep it all straight (but in a good way). There were so many different conspiracies and agendas I lost count, which made for an explosive and complex ending where most of the different factions’ plans came to a head all at once.
The story has been marketed as a dark adult fantasy, but it felt much more like a YA crossover. It definitely had adult elements that were quite dark, but most of the tropes and themes were ones I see most commonly in YA novels. All of the protagonists were dealing with coming of age issues and fell into the late YA or NA age range. Personally, I liked the blend of YA themes with the darker elements, but I love YA fantasy in general. So, that wasn’t much of a surprise. The story explored how relationships change as individuals grow up and illustrated the struggle young people often have when they initially realize the world isn’t necessarily perfect, good, or on their side. Many of the characters struggled to find a balance between fulfilling their duty and creating change in a system that they realized wasn’t working. I also loved the author’s subversion of the typical chosen one trope and the exploration of how the gods and religious/political figures used their powers to further their own agendas. However, I think the religious themes could have been explored more explicitly or deeply given the contentious relationships between some of the main characters and their gods, which was one of the only major disappointments I had with this book.
I loved all the characters in this book. Each of them felt distinct and well-rounded, and the rotating POVs kept me engaged even when the story was moving rather slowly. My favorite characters were probably Taesia and Nik. Taesia was just a total badass hell bent on saving her brother and changing a system she didn’t really even want to be a part of, and her struggle with her moral failings made her such an interesting, complex character. On the other hand, I just wanted to give Nik a big hug. I felt so bad for him as I read this book because all he wanted was to be good enough for someone, his father, his god, his friends. His journey was compelling and brought tears to my eyes at the end. I also want to note that the author did a fantastic job of writing the relationship dynamics between the characters. The rivalry between the heirs oozed from the pages, and the sexual tension was so thick at some points it made my cold heart flutter. lol. I don’t usually ship certain characters while reading a book, but I definitely have strong feelings about which characters should get together. I’m hoping to see that happen in future books, and if it doesn’t, watch out Sim. 😉
Overall, I really loved this book. It was a great reading experience despite being a bit slow at times. The ending left me with my jaw hanging open for quite a while after, and I really want to read the next book! Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.