Friday, June 13, 2014

Review: Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore

Review: Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore
Release date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Disney*Hyperion
Series: Yes, #1 in the Dark Metropolis series
Source: ARC from the Publisher
Length: 304 pages
Rating: Lovely idea, okay read, rather whelmed.


Cabaret meets Cassandra Clare-a haunting magical thriller set in a riveting 1930s-esque world.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.

Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own. Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, this is a chilling thriller with a touch of magic where the dead don't always seem to stay that way.

Okay, so Blogger decided to eat my first draft of this review, which is always fun. But anyway, I was very excited for this book because a) it seems very original and atmospheric b) a little birdy told me there is an LGBT plotline and c) MAGICKS. While Dark Metropolis is by no means a bad book, it failed to set my world on fire.
Sadly, we are in Europe.
I'll start with what I did like: setting and concept. Dark Metropolis is a fantasy unlike any other I've read, in that it takes place in this sort of 1920s/30s world that is definitely not our world. It has magic that's been outlawed by this despotic, creepily totalitarian government that is not unlike German politics in the 20s and 30s. While I definitely wanted more from the worldbuilding, what Dolamore does give us is very, very cool. It's never defined whether it's an alternate version of our world or a high fantasy or what, but I find that didn't bother me.

But again, I wanted more from it. The details Dolamore gives are fabulous, particularly the more glamorous elements, like the Telephone Club, where Thea and Nan work as waitresses. It's got this Cabaret-ish feel, or even like a twenties speakeasy, with a show and drinks and wealthy patrons. I want to go to there. But I would have loved more history of this fascinating country with its wars, its forbidden magic, and its tough times. I wanted to know more about the witches we didn't get to see, and I wanted to know even more about this post-war gloom they were in and the juxtaposition with this twenties glamour side of the city and... yeah. I wanted more of it, because without it, I felt a bit unmoored. I was unable to plant my feet firmly.

Then there's the concept. I don't want to give too much of it away, but most of it centers on Thea, who is trying to find her best friend, Nan, who's gone missing. And then there's... well, there's zombies. Kind of. I found this part extremely cool. The dead are being brought back to life, and it's all kind of mystical and forbidden. Magic, you see, is not allowed in this new, post-war government. The zombies are less zombies and more people who have been brought back to life by a person with a magic touch. And that person is Freddy, one of the other main characters and Thea's love interest.
Minus the pies. Wait, why didn't this book have pies?!
And I guess that's where the positive portion of this book ends: with the characters. Again, they are no means bad characters. Dolamore is clearly skilled, and her plot, while not entirely gripping, is quick and twisty and achieves a nice resolution at the end. Our main character, Thea, is certainly sympathetic. Her parents, when they first married, partook in a crude magical spell called binding that caused them to be emotionally linked and able to find one another while separated. When Thea's father died in the war, her mother started to go a little mad, convinced he was still alive. Now her mother is a complete invalid, and Thea has to work hard to take care of the both of them.

But Thea lacked a certain... spark, that intangible thing that made me really feel for her. It was like I was just kind of watching her do her thing with mild interest, which is not how I like to read. Then there was Freddy, who was also perfectly nice, and had a very cool magic-related storyline (with a revolting twist which honestly, Freddy?), but I did not care much about their romance. It was kind of like oh, here's the girl in the story, and there is the boy. Let's give them some mushy feelings. Nan was by far the best character, though that's not saying terribly much. But she's feisty and active and her storyline was very interesting.

Though again, that was a bit of the problem. I cared more for their storylines than their characters. All the bonus points, though, for the way the QUILTBAG+ aspects were included in this world and the story.

Ultimately, I'm whelmed by this book, leaning towards the positive. In the right reader's hands, this book could be magic. I simply wanted more of the atmosphere, darkness, and romance I was hoping for, rather than a fast, surface read.


  1. Well, I had been on the fence about this book, and after your review I'm even more firmly planted there... I can't decided if I want to read it cause it sounds intriguing but then... lack of world building? I don't want to be wondering and asking why's and how's and not get any answers...

    1. I wish I could help you get off the fence, but I really was verrry neutral on this book, which is rare. Though I guess it's always a good idea to give things a try, since you never know :)

  2. Hahaha I am actually more interested in this book now because I read for plot and not character lol! This sounds like a good book. I love when concepts are original. And I like the 1920s! Great review!


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