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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The City of Dusk by Tara Sim - Review

 


Official Author Website
Buy The City of Dusk HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Tara Sim is the author of the upcoming CITY OF DUSK (Orbit), as well as the SCAVENGE THE STARS duology (Little, Brown) and the TIMEKEEPER trilogy (Sky Pony Press). She can often be found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California.

When she’s not writing about magic, murder, and mayhem, Tara spends her time drinking tea, wrangling cats, and lurking in bookstores.

FORMAT/INFO: The City of Dusk was published by Orbit Books on March 22nd, 2022. It is 543 pages. It is told in third person POV from multiple characters, including Taesia, Nikolas, Risha, and Angelica. It is available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats.



OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: How far would you go to tear down the magical barriers slowly killing your city? That’s the question on the mind of the four divine heirs of the four great Houses of Nexus. Each heir is descended from a bloodline founded by one of the four gods, and in a perfect world, each would be based in their home realm founded by their patron god. But 500 years ago, an event known as the Sealing severed the portals between worlds, leaving the heirs and thousands of people trapped on one plane. For centuries, the Houses have worked to undo the Sealing, but for the first time, it appears success may be on the horizon. All it will take is the power of Godsnight, the night when all the realms align – and a little forbidden magic.

The City of Dusk is a book of dazzling magic that rewards readers who embrace the lengthy exploration of the city’s mysteries. The books shines brightest during its big set pieces, when the author paints vivid pictures of the magic on display. The four heirs are essentially demigods, each the descendent of a bloodline created with a mortal and divine parent. The result is some breathtaking action sequences: wings of light, elements as weapons, the undead rising from their graves. The City of Dusk is full of the kind of imagery that makes you wish for an animated adaptation to see these fights and powers on a screen before you. The finale in particular pulls out all the stops as the characters dig deeply into their powers, but there are plenty of moments throughout the adventure when the heirs get to show off their skills. Combine these powers with some deep mysteries about the nature of the Sealing and the other interested parties who are trying to tear down the magical barriers, and you have an engrossing tale.

Of the four heirs, Taesia steals the show. The heir to the house of shadow magic, Taesia doesn’t want anything to do with the spotlight or duty or house politics, but it soon becomes clear she can’t avoid any of those things. Taesia is prickly, sarcastic, and constantly willing to flirt with the boundary of what’s acceptable in the pursuit of protecting her family and her people. The other heirs have their own problems, from Nik’s feelings of unworthiness due to a family tragedy to Angelica’s inability to fully access her powers. Occasionally, it did feel like the characters were on parallel journeys with different flavorings as they all start discovering different groups practicing different forbidden magics, making for slightly repetitive beat plot and character beats.

That repetitive feeling ties in with one of the book’s weaknesses, that of a fairly slow pacing. Much as I liked the characters and the magic, sometimes it felt like the book was moving at a glacial pace. While it gives the story plenty of time to unwind layer after layer of mystery and intrigue (which have satisfying reveals by the end), occasionally I found myself wishing that the plot would hurry up and get to the main event already. When it DOES get to the ending though, I found myself desperately wishing for the sequel, as the author has set up a sprawling part 2 that I cannot wait to explore.

The other weakness I wanted to flag is that at the beginning, the worldbuilding can be overwhelming and confusing (at least it was for me). It took me a while to get a handle on how the universe was organized: essentially each realm can be thought of as its own dimension or plane of existence (as opposed to four countries on the same globe). When the Sealing happened, everyone important to this story was trapped on Vitae, the realm of light magic. That seems simple enough to explain now, but at the time, I was getting the names of all the realms alongside the names of countries and governments inside the realm of light (most of which don’t really figure into the plot of the book), and I found myself struggling to get a sense of the geography of the story.

CONCLUSION: It’s a testament to the strength of the rest of the book that even as I was floundering with understanding the world, I still was compelled to set aside my confusion and to keep reading to see what the characters would do. The plot may take its time, but it makes the journey absolutely worth it as you see pieces click into place. You could accuse a few beats of deus ex machina, but when you’re dealing with literal gods, it’s hard to complain too much. Those who stick with The City of Dusk will get a rewarding payoff and a setup for the sequel that will have them salivating at the possibilities.

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