Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Book Review: Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

Pros: interesting story, interesting characters

Cons: characters do some really dumb things, protagonist has a lack of consideration for others’ lives, ending was unsatisfying

Manhattan’s now a partially flooded and divided city, where the rich live in a mystic built and powered upper city called the Aeries, and the poor live in the depths below.  Years ago a bomb built by mystics blew up and now they have their powers drained twice a year and must live in the slum that used to be central park.

Aria Rose, of the wealthy Rose family, wakes up from a drug overdose unable to remember the past few months and the supposedly torrid love affair she had behind her family’s back with the son of their political rival, Thomas Foster.  But now she’s engaged to marry him just weeks after the upcoming election.  The two families have joined forces - because of the engagement - to fight against a mystic mayoral candidate who might just win the election.

The plot has some definite Romeo and Juliet overtones, but it’s not a retelling. 

I really liked Aria at the beginning.  She’s an earnest young woman who’s honestly confused by what’s going on in her life and trying to make the best of it.  She’s also painfully naive and, as the book goes on, kind of oblivious to reality.  The more she learns about what happened with her memory, the more she realizes that her family is terrible, something she apparently hadn’t recognized before, despite her father being a mob style leader.

She - and several other characters - make increasingly dumb decisions as the book goes on.  Aria sneaks into the depths several times, and though her parents discover this, they don’t put any protections in place to stop her from continuing to do this (which is even more bizarre as her dad runs the organization that tracks people and could flag her use of the scanner POD devices that allow her to enter the depths.

Hunter, a rebel mystic she encounters, also makes some poor decisions that get Aria into trouble when they’re discovered together - multiple times.

I was particularly disturbed by Aria’s apparent lack of consideration for the lives of others.  She watches a gondola driver she claims helped her cross the canals in the depths executed - and feels bad about it - but it doesn’t stop her from going back to the depths and asking other gondola drivers to ferry her around.  Similarly, a homeless man is killed near the end of the book and she thinks nothing of it beyond that it potentially helps her out.  In fact, the entire ending is due to several bad decisions she and Hunter make that leads to a battle that sees many people die.  And they don’t seem too broken up over it.

For the most part I enjoyed the book, though towards the end I started losing sympathy for the protagonists as their decisions became less and less thought out and started to affect more and more people.  I found the ending rather unsatisfying as a result, though I’m sure others will find the battle exciting.

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