Title: Mystic City by Theo Lawrence
Published: October 9th 2012 by Delacorte
Source: Received from publisher for review
Group age: Young adult
Genre: Urban fantasy/dystopia
Grade rate: B+
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.
Mystic City is a sparkling, thrilling debut. It’s got magic, mystery and a gritty urban twist, with a dystopian backdrop just to make its kaleidoscope story ever more complex. I didn’t come into it with high expectations, but by the end I was completely blown away.
This story takes elements of YA we’ve seen before – a protagonist with amnesia, a world divided by politics, class warfare, arranged marriages and distasteful suitors – and meshes them together in a way that makes this novel unique, fresh and exciting.
There’s a wide range of characters, and while not all are loveable – Aria, the main character, in particular can take a few chapters to warm to – each has the air of a stage actor or actress in a role: they are theatrical and easy to visualise. Aria’s ruthless father, heartless mother and slimeball fiancé dominate the dystopian features of the book on a very personal level. Aria’s brother is basically just there for when things need ruining or a social scene needs an extra cast member, and her friends are equally as useless, but their purpose is to paint a picture of a society with a rotted core - and the rot doesn't lie in the Depths, where families struggle to survive. It lies in the upperclass Aeries, where families aren't families at all.
Mystic City's futuristic backdrop is dazzling and vibrant. The Aeries is secluded high above the rising sea levels and pollution which riddles the Depths. The rulers of the Aeries would rather forget that the Depths still exist - but they need the mystics who are confined there because it's their mystical, magical power which fuels the floating city.
Hunter is a mystic, and he's the really loveable one. He steals every scene and while Aria spends most of her time feeling confused, he's sure of himself, his beliefs and his place in the story. His tough-guy best friend Turk doesn't endear himself right away - but he grows on you. I found myself wishing I could spend more time in the Depths so I could experience more of these characters and how they lived.
In a book which possesses plot twists and pacing issues in equal measure, there’s an understandable lapse in detailed exploration from time to time. For the most part, the plot verges on brilliant, injecting life into the narrative before it begins to wane. The bad pacing and lack of thematic balance is a far more worrying problem. Whole plot threads are simply glossed over for the sake of pressing on with the book and while I loved that it read fast, I just kept wishing for something more.
The romance, for example, left me feeling this way. It's there, and you want to root for the couple at the centre of it, but it's just not given the tender loving care it needs in order to flourish as the heart-warming, gut-wrenching centre of the story. I hate to say it, but sometimes, things were just a bit all over the place.
Likewise, the social conflict in Mystic City isn't as impressive it could be. The idea is great but the execution isn't up to scratch. The misery of the Depths is told, but not shown; it fails to tug on the heartstrings and keeps us detached from the true cause of the bloodbath rebellion which preoccupies so many of the book's action sequences.
The true redeeming factor of this book is the fact that it's male author writing a female viewpoint. It's written so well I almost forgot about all the challenges writing in the opposite gender can present and I adored the story even more for it. YA needs more of this bravery - and soon!
In short, Mystic City is stunning, fast-paced debut. Not without fault but really, really enjoyable. I can't wait for the sequel!
Originally posted at: Daisy Book Chain Reviews