Paperback, 400 pages.
Release date: October 11th 2012.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
For fans of Matched, The Hunger Games, X-Men, and Blade Runner comes a tale of a magical city divided, a political rebellion ignited, and a love that was meant to last forever. Book One of the Mystic City Novels.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.
The combination of dystopia, magic and mystery was what really caught my attention about Mystic City. There are elements of the book which have all been done before - a main character with memory loss, a world divided by politics, an arranged marriage to a very distasteful character - but the way Theo Lawrence ties them all together makes this story feel fresh and exciting.
Aria is a likeable protagonist - but she's not loveable. Her ruthless father, heartless mother and slimeball fiancé are much easier to visualise. I didn't understand the role of her brother in proceedings (he's basically just there for when things need ruining or a social scene needs an extra cast member). Aria's 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.
To this end, 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.
Unfortunately, in a book which possesses plot twists and pacing issues in equal measure, there just isn't time for any detailed exploration. For the most part, the plot twists are brilliant and inject 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: a stunning, fast-paced debut. Not without fault but really, really enjoyable. I can't wait for the sequel!