Title: The City of Dusk (The Dark Gods #1)
Author: Tara Sim
Publication date: March 22, 2022
One Sentence Summary: Since the realms were sealed off from each other 500 years ago, Vaega has been slowly dying, but the four heirs of the four houses carrying godsblood intend on doing something about it, if they can only trust each other.
The City of Dusk is a dark and intense story. Revolving around the ambitions and motivations of the four heirs of the four Houses, there are layers and layers to this story that keep things interesting. While the facts that the heirs were so close in age and they each had someone outside of their family to hold onto bothered me a bit, I loved how dark and rich the story was, how flawed the characters were, and how detailed the world was. The story does not back down from anything and nothing is made easy for the heirs. My heart screamed for just one thing to go right, but I really loved tumbling through with them, loved watching them grow and change to fit shifting roles. Overall, I found The City of Dusk to be quite a ride and I can’t wait to see what the next book holds for them.
There are four realms: Life, Death, Darkness, and Light. They all converge in the city of Nexus, which is ruled by a king with schemes and secrets. But, in the city, there are also four Houses, each of which was founded by an heir who called one of the gods a parent. Five hundred years ago, the realms were Sealed. Now Vaega, where Nexus is, is dying and the dead souls are unable to move on. The heirs of the four Houses are the only ones who have a chance of unsealing the realms as Godsnight approaches, when the Cosmic Scale will be perfectly aligned and when the gods will be able to inhabit their heirs. But secrets and individual motivations among them, and others, can derail the opportunity at every turn.
Angelica was raised to take the crown from the childless king, but her ability to use the elements is tenuous at best. Taesia is supposed to be the spare, but her older brother’s sudden inability thrusts her into a role she never wanted, a role she is wholly unsuited for. Nikolas has seen his powers slip in the years since his younger brother’s death, earning nothing but hatred from his father. Risha is the good girl, doing everything she’s supposed to, but there’s a cost to doing things the right way.
The City of Dusk is a sometimes intense, sometimes horrifying, sometimes surprisingly sweet story of four young adults with their own ambitions and motivations trying to work together. They’re deeply flawed, but the world they live in might just be even more flawed than they are. The story is complex and layered as plans surrounding the same event from more than just the heirs muddle the waters. The world is just as richly complex, the city detailed with what feels like a Spanish flair, and hints of the other realms tantalize. There’s so much in this book that it sometimes felt like it should collapse under the weight and almost dizzying reveals, but it manages to hold together and hint at much more to come in the next book.
The City of Dusk is dark and almost horrifying. There are a great deal of corpses, which was incredibly unsettling to me. But the story is lush and rich and has so much more than just dead bodies on offer. I loved how the story never, ever shied away from the darker, horrifying elements. Instead, it fully committed and pushed me past my comfort zone to present a dazzling, disturbing story of four young adults who have been pushed and prodded and groomed for certain roles and duties.
The four main characters are Angelica, Taesia, Nikolas, and Risha. They were all so different from each other, but were all raised to fulfill certain roles. Their lives very much did not feel like they were their own, something Taesia struggled with throughout the entire novel. As a matter of fact, all of them had their own struggles, their own fights and flaws. It made it difficult for them to work together and trust each other, helping to splinter the story further as layer after layer was stacked on. The only thing that really bothered me about them as a whole was that they were all about the same age. Since they come from different families who didn’t encourage their children to mingle with each other, it seemed kind of preposterous that they would all have children at around the same time. Other than that, I loved their internal and external conflicts and just how real they felt. Taesia was probably the most fascinating to me as she was the one who rebelled against the role she was suddenly thrust into, and she was the one who just needed a small nudge to become something quite unlike the others. But I loved Risha the most. Not only was her Indian-inspired family and culture lush and beautiful (and felt like it had the most depth to it), but I could identify with being the good daughter, the one who does what she’s supposed to. At the same time, I really wanted her to go against what everyone wanted and expected of her, and could almost feel that conflict in her.
I really liked how there isn’t a huge cast of major and more minor characters, but there was a whole lot of maneuvering and scheming and planning. I did find it a little confusing when a character I took to be more minor received their own sections, but it made complete sense by the end and was just another delightful thread, another layer, that made for a richer, deeper, darker story. But the fact that so many of the characters had something up their sleeves and were completely tight lipped about it to the point I didn’t even see it coming kept my interest and kept me reading to see how it would all come together. As a reader, it was often excruciating to know certain pieces of information and see characters hurtling down the completely wrong road. But I loved it because I couldn’t see how it would turn out, how it would impact the overarching story line of this book. There were so many surprises that I wish had been given even just a hint of foreshadowing just so I could go back and have that “ah ha” moment, but I still did enjoy the way the story unfolded.
But the thing I appreciated the most was how understated the romance was. There’s little more than hints of it, but it’s peppered in. They’re complicated in so many ways, and they mostly felt more hinted at through behaviors than anything explicitly said. I really liked how romance just wasn’t a big point in this book and that it instead focused on the tenuous relationships the heirs had with each other, their family relationships, and the surprising relationships they formed with other characters who mostly stood outside of their worlds but who nevertheless played big roles in the story. Actually, the fact that each of the heirs found someone outside of their worlds to latch onto felt a little too contrived and repetitive to me, but I’m curious to see how they’ll all play out as the series unfolds.
Keeping with there being things I loved and things I wasn’t a big fan of, I have to say I loved the world, but I wanted more. The City of Dusk is focused in the city of Nexus. It’s well-developed and I really liked the Spanish flair to it, though I felt Risha’s family’s Indian-inspired culture was more interesting and developed. Still, I appreciated the sensation of rushing through the city with the characters even if I couldn’t properly place everything in my mind. But the city and the world have a rich history that filters through at every turn. It felt clearly rooted and had so much depth to it. But I did want more of the other realms. There were so many hints, so many glimpses, that I wanted just one story of what one of the other realms was like. Now I’m dying to know more about them and what happened to them after the Sealing.
The City of Dusk felt like an intense ride to me. It’s dark and some parts were deeply disturbing and horrifying to me. But it all worked well together. It colored the world and the characters and created just the right atmosphere and sense of desperation for the story. I loved all the layers, though it did almost feel like too much at one point. The ending felt like a headlong rush into disaster, but the rest of the story unfolded like a blooming flower that made it much easier to piece together exactly what was happening. There were surprises at so many turns, but the story never felt like it derailed. Overall, The City of Dusk held my attention and kept me thinking about it even when I wasn’t reading. It thrust me into the story, but also helped keep me from feeling fully entangled in it by offering pieces of information other characters would not be privy to.
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Thank you to Angela Man at Orbit for a physical review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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