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Show, Not Tell – A Review of BLACK CITY by Elizabeth Richards

Posted by on November 19, 2012
Black City (Black City, #1) BLACK CITY
Elizabeth Richards
384 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: November 13th, 2012
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: …DNF (Did Not Finish)

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war.

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

   Show, not tell. Honestly, I thought this piece of advice only applied to my writing when I read BLACK CITY. Correction: when I TRIED to read BLACK CITY. Because I couldn’t. And boy, did I try.

   In a fantasy/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic – basically any novel that isn’t contemporary or present-day, world building is a must. And the world building in BLACK CITY was just… wrong.

   A character would say something, and the narrator (sometimes Ash, sometimes Natalie – yes, it’s dual POV) would launch into an explanation. Explaining, explaining, explaining, paragraphs upon paragraphs. That my friends, is how the world is built. And that is what we call telling, not showing. I couldn’t help but skim past the paragraphs, to the point where I didn’t even know what was happening.

   And then there’s the dialogue. I’m not sure why, but to me, it seemed forced and 89% time just didn’t sound real. Also: insta-love. I usually don’t mind – I mean it has to happen, right? But in BLACK CITY, the characters (Natalie and Ash) hated each other, with a vengeance, and then all of a sudden, it was just pure love. Add the fact that I couldn’t tell Ash from Natalie when the narrators switched – and I’m one irritated reader.

   I’ll end this now before I launch into a rant (along the lines of: how on Earth did this end up as a Penguin Breathless Read?!). I know a lot of people enjoyed BLACK CITY, and I wanted to too. I really, really wanted to. But frankly, it just wasn’t for me.

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24 comments

  1. Aww, I'm so sorry that you didn't enjoy this one at all Hafsah! I haven't seen too many reviews for this one (yet), but the ones I have seen, I believe have all been positive. But based off of what you've said, I don't think I'd enjoy this one! All the boring telling would definitely begin to grate on my nerves, and insta-love? I think this book may be one I'm going to have to pass up. Because seriously, insta-love is probably the thing I've come to dislike in books the most now, because I've seen it happen too many times to count. But the fact that these 2 characters hated each other, and then there was insta-love? That makes everything so much worse.

    Thank you for the honest review Hafsah! I'm sorry you didn't like this one. =( I hope your next read is better!

  2. There's actually a reason for the “insta-love” that comes to light at the end, so maybe you want to read the ending just for the simple fact of understanding it more. I actually really loved Black City and I'm sorry it didn't appeal to you :( Maybe you can try it again one day :)

  3. INSTA-LOVE kills me!! Darn, darn, darn. Showing versus telling is so hard to get right as a writer but as a published author, I kind of feel like you should have that down. I mean, you're *published*. It's been through multiple incarnations and editors. What happened?

    Still gonna read it because now I have to see for myself… Hope your next read is a “loved”!

  4. I started reading Black City, I got a bit bored at first, I skipped to the middle and my interest came back. Decided to go back read the parts I skipped in the beginning, after all was read I was happy I did finish the book. I am pleasantly surprised and looking forward to see what Phoenix has to offer.

  5. Eh yeah… this one wasn't for me either. It was a bit of a mess. You really hit the nail on the head when you say it should be about showing and not telling. I thought the author definitely has plenty of room for improvement there and I absolutely wish her success in the future, but I just couldn't get into this one!

  6. I am sorry you didn't enjoy it. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it certainly is popular. I'll be interested to see what I think when I do get a chance to read it. Thanks for the honest review.

  7. I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this one. I haven't read it yet, but I just got it from the library and I've been pretty excited about it for a long time but after hearing some mixed reviews, I'm not really much looking forward to it anymore, though I'm still going to give it a try.

  8. Thanks for the honest review! I like to read balanced reviews and so many about this book have been gushy, so it's nice to read something a bit more constructive.

  9. It's awful you didn't like it! Dystopians are difficult to do, and this one didn't really fit your likes and dislikes.

    Thank you for the review:)

  10. I finished the book, although it was really difficult for me to do as well. I needed to see if it got any better and it didn't, I got aggravated with just about everything in the book, and I felt that there was something wrong with me too because so many people loved it.

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