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

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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Hafsah Faizal is a YA author, designer, and blogger. Her designs have graced the sites of New York Times bestselling authors, bloggers, and more. She resides in Texas, with her family.



  1. Reply


    November 19, 2012

    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. Reply

    Nicole Mainardi

    November 19, 2012

    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. Reply

    Ula (Blog of Erised)

    November 19, 2012

    Oh, I was really looking forward to reading this book. I'll give it a try nevertheless.

  4. Reply

    Mary @ BookSwarm

    November 19, 2012

    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”!

  5. Reply

    Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf

    November 19, 2012

    Ah…what a shame…sounds like a lot of issues conspired to make you dislike this one so much.

  6. Reply

    Jesse Burgoyne

    November 19, 2012

    I'm going back and forth on this one, honestly. I want to read it, but I keep hearing SO MANY mixed reviews I'm doubting myself. Maybe I'll get it from the library… Thanks for the honest review!

    Jesse @ Pretty in Fiction

  7. Reply


    November 19, 2012

    It's too bad you didn't enjoy this one. I've been reading a few mixed reviews. I absolutely loved it and cannot wait for Phoenix.

  8. Reply

    Amber Elise

    November 20, 2012

    I agree with what Nicole said, even if you don't want to finish reading, flip through the last few chapters, they explain the instalove.

    Sorry didn't like it, I really enjoyed it but hey this is the beauty of booking blogging! :)

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

  9. Reply

    Dani Mcculloch

    November 20, 2012

    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.

  10. Reply


    November 20, 2012

    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!

  11. Reply


    November 20, 2012

    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.

  12. Reply


    November 20, 2012

    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.

  13. Reply


    November 20, 2012

    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.

  14. Reply

    Christina K.

    November 20, 2012

    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:)

  15. Reply


    November 25, 2012

    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.

  16. Reply

    Laura @thereadingnook

    November 26, 2012

    I've heard so many good things about this book, im sad to see you didn't like it, but not everything is for everyone, theres lots of books people loved that I just didn't….

  17. Reply

    wren b.

    December 3, 2012

    That sucks it sounded like such an awesome read.

  18. Reply

    Imagination blinds my eyes

    December 7, 2012

    Aw, man. I was looking forward to this, but thanks for telling me your opinion of it. I'm still sorry to see you didn't enjoy this book, but this review came as a small warning to me. Thanks about that. :)

  19. Reply


    December 9, 2012

    Thanks for the honest review.

  20. Reply

    Kristie Matheson

    December 23, 2012

    I'm sad to hear you didn't like it. I am excited for it and hope I don't get disappointed.

  21. Reply


    January 6, 2013

    So looking forward to this book!

  22. Reply

    Anastasia Gkaitatzi

    January 15, 2013

    Haven't finished it either!Love your review! :)

  23. Reply

    Wanda (GoodChoiceReading)

    January 20, 2013

    Wow. This is the first review I've read that didn't love “Black City”. I absolutely LOVED it. So sad you didn't get to enjoy it.

  24. Reply

    Jennifer Messerschmidt

    February 21, 2013

    Major bummer. I also hate telling not showing. I've heard so many good things about this one but I just haven't had a chance to read it yet. I love dual POVs but insta-love is a major turn off for me.