Title: Shadow City
Series: The City of Diamond and Steel
Author: Francesca Flores
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: January 26th, 2021 (Wednesday Books)
Synopsis: Aina Solís has fought her way to the top of criminal ranks in the city of Kosín by wresting control of an assassin empire owned by her old boss, Kohl. She never has to fear losing her home and returning to life on the streets again—except Kohl, the man who tried to ruin her life, will do anything to get his empire back. Aina sets out to kill him before he can kill her.
But Alsane Bautix, the old army general who was banned from his seat in the government after Aina revealed his corruption, is working to take back power by destroying anyone who stands in his way. With a new civil war on the horizon and all their lives at risk, the only way for Aina to protect her home is to join up with the only other criminal more notorious than her: Kohl himself.
As Bautix’s attacks increase, Aina and Kohl work together to stop his incoming weapons shipments and his plans to take back the Tower of Steel. To defeat them both, Aina will resort to betrayal, poison, and a deadly type of magic that hasn’t been used in years.
Through narrow alleys, across train rooftops, and deep in the city’s tunnels, Aina and Kohl will test each other’s strengths and limits, each of them knowing that once Bautix is dead, they’ll still have to face each other. If she manages to kill him, she’ll finally have the freedom she wants—but it might forever mark her as his shadow in a city where only the strongest survive.
Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Aina and Tannis have now taken over Kohl’s tradehouses, but Kosin is far from peaceful. The corrupt general Alsane Bautix who was ousted after Aina revealed his corruption is already making moves to take back his power with no care for anyone who stands in his way. When Kohl returns and asks Aina to join him in taking down Bautix, she is reluctant, but seeing no other option to protect her home, agrees. But their alliance is an uneasy one, knowing that once they’ve achieved their goal, it will be time to face each other once again.
I like the world-building in this duology, and along with all the history into the Inosen religion and the civil war, it makes for a very unique setting. But Shadow City was entirely focused on what was more or less the 3-way conflict between Aina, Kohl and Bautix that all of that background kind of felt pointless. There was a lot of action, and quite a bit of political scheming which was about the only thing that kept this story together in my opinion, since the pacing was slow as well. There were times at which it felt like way too much was happening to keep everything straight to the point that I started to lose interest.
I cannot believe Aina actually let herself trust Kohl again after everything she has been through, and that was about the point when I threw up my hands, sat back and waited for the backstabbing to happen. Aina’s complicated past with Kohl takes centre stage in this book at the times there’s no fighting going on, and while it’s a very complex and twisted one that was wonderfully portrayed, it does come at the expense of page time for the other characters. While I love the secondary characters, Ryuu and Teo in particular, they didn’t feel as central to the plot in this book as they did in the last, and it would have been nice to see more of them. I do appreciate however, how well the romantic relationships were handled in this sequel, as an important part of the characters’ arcs, but never an overarching focus to the plot, which is, I think something that more fantasy novels ought to adapt because I could honestly use a few more straightforward plotlines like this.
Magic was probably the one aspect I was most excited to see in this book – and it was the biggest disappointment. When Aina added magic to her already extensive arsenal, I thought the story would finally take a more exciting turn, but it was almost superfluous. She barely uses it, and when she does, it’s completely anticlimactic and was little better than a convenience rather than a weapon. The other thing I didn’t like was the excessive violence – it was to the point that as a reader, I was nearly desensitized to it by the end. Characters get injured left and right, yet seem to be able to run around astonishingly soon after, which is simply not realistic.
Overall, while this was an acceptable conclusion to the story, and things were tied up rather neatly, it was a letdown and it simply didn’t hold my attention the way Diamond City did. I would probably read another book by the same author since I like the writing style, but this series was not for me.
Shadow City releases on January 26th, 2021
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: