Monday, January 9, 2023

Review: City of Nightmares by Rebecca Schaeffer

Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: January 10, 2023
Pages: 381

Gotham meets Strange the Dreamer in this thrilling young adult fantasy about a cowardly girl who finds herself at the center of a criminal syndicate conspiracy, in a city where crooked politicians and sinister cults reign and dreaming means waking up as your worst nightmare.

Ever since her sister became a man-eating spider and slaughtered her way through town, nineteen-year-old Ness has been terrified—terrified of some other Nightmare murdering her, and terrified of ending up like her sister. Because in Newham, the city that never sleeps, dreaming means waking up as your worst fear.

Whether that means becoming a Nightmare that’s monstrous only in appearance, to transforming into a twisted, unrecognizable creature that terrorizes the city, no one is safe. Ness will do anything to avoid becoming another victim, even if that means lying low among the Friends of the Restful Soul, a questionable organization that may or may not be a cult.

But being a member of maybe-cult has a price. In order to prove herself, Ness cons her way into what’s supposed to be a simple job for the organization—only for it to blow up in her face. Literally. Tangled up in the aftermath of an explosive assassination, now Ness and the only other survivor—a Nightmare boy who Ness suspects is planning to eat her—must find their way back to Newham and uncover the sinister truth behind the attack, even as the horrors of her past loom ominously near.  

"We all know who's been threatening people here and it's not me."

"Which, honestly, this is Newham--I'm pretty sure I trip over villainous plots, like, six times a day."

"...but you know what, if you can't use your knowledge to needle your killer, what's even the point of it?"

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

In a world filled with literal nightmares, one woman dares to be afraid of all of them. This book was weird. Like I'm having trouble putting my thoughts into words because I feel like everything I really want to say about it would include some sort of spoiler.

Ness clearly has PTSD from her sister turning into a Nightmare and eating their father. She seeks refuge with The Friends of the Restful Soul (she swears they're not a cult) after her aunt dies, because they offer free therapy that she'd been taking advantage of already. But like you get what you pay for, right? It's also the only way she can keep a roof over her head because the entire world scares her half to death. 

This book had so many twists and turns in the story that it really felt unrealistic, except the set-up for this world made it realistic for the story, if that makes any sense. And I can honestly say I did not see half of those twists coming, but I'm not necessarily sure that's a good thing. 

The character growth I saw in this book felt kind of cookie cutter and rushed to me. I liked the end result, but the path to get there left so much to be desired and just felt like it happened all at once. 

I realize this review seems pretty negative, but my overall experience with the book wasn't. I wanted to keep reading and I was anxious to see what happened next. It's just talking about the things I really liked about the book would absolutely spoil parts of it and I'm not trying to do that to you. 

Overall I give this book 4.2 out of 5 stars and definitely look forward to reading the next one in the series whenever it may come out. - Katie 

Rebecca Schaeffer is the critically acclaimed author of Not Even BonesOnly Ashes Remain, and When Villains Rise. The Webtoon adaptation of the trilogy has garnered over a hundred million reads and nearly 2 million subscribers. Her next book, City of Nightmares, comes out in 2023.

Twitter: @rrschaeffer.

Instagram: @rebecca_schaeffer

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