The City of Dusk – Tara Sim

“The flash of a dying star made the boy pause and look up.

Four realms meet in the City of Dusk: Darkness and Light, Life and Death. But the gods that founded each noble house have all but forsaken their heirs. Without their power, locked behind a barrier, every realm is slowly dying.

Even as the city slowly fades, the Holy King pits the four houses against each other, daring them to prove themselves worthy to be his successor. But the children of all four houses are tired of being pushed into subservient perfection, appalled to spend their powers on shallow displays rather than more important endeavours. But when the secret to saving it all looks to require forbidden magics, will they risk it all?

I’ve never read anything by Tara Sim before, but I believe this is being touted as her first novel for adults. However, my main ‘hmm’ about it all is that it doesn’t really escape a very YA feeling. Sure, there’s death and blood and sex, but the characters are so teenage – in behaviour, if supposedly a little older – that I found it ever so slightly offputting. Like too much of YA, we have these brave, powerful, disobedient youngsters out to save the world, while the parents are stupid, shallow, distant – all of that. Hmm.

Aside from that, though, there’s a lot to like about this and I enjoyed the read. The worldbuilding is impressive in scale: four realms, each with a god, each very different. Centuries ago the paths between failed, leaving refugees stranded in the City of Dusk, alongside the literal descendants of the gods. Each wields power: Risha is a necromancer, Taesia controls shadows, Angelica the elements, while Nik struggles to master the light-based power of his family.

It took me a while to separate these characters properly, and it doesn’t help that the cast is huge. Siblings, parents, enemies, and then more and more other characters – some with powers, too – start to join the cast. I did find the ending incredibly ‘busy’ with names and jumping viewpoints, which I thought distracted somewhat from the immensity of the events being described. It doesn’t quite help that there are several big reveals leading up to it, and I’m not sure quite enough space to process it all.

And then, of course, it ends on a cliff hanger – argh!

All of which is quite critical but along the way I enjoyed myself enough. The writing is strong, characters are fun, the powers cool – and backstories all suitably tragic. I have a suspicion that I need to read the whole trilogy to really appreciate the story, however, as even at 500+ pages I didn’t feel we had enough of the various worlds, cultures, or even the characters. So, not quite hitting the full mark for me – but heck yes, bring on the sequels!

The City of Dusk book coverNetGalley eARC: 512 pages / 16 chapters
First published: 22nd March 2022
Series: Dark Gods trilogy book 1
Read from 15th-22nd March 2022

My rating: 7/10

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