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Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

6/10 Decent enough to get you hooked and keep you there until the end.

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.

I believe that the description of Mystic City actually does the book an injustice – you immediately believe it is going to be a basic retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but with a bit more magic and modernism thrown in, whereas the finished product is actually quite far from this.

We first meet Aria Rose as she awakens from a stupor - apparently brought on by an overdose, and resulting in some pretty severe memory loss. She discovers that she is engaged to a member of the rival family of Fosters, but upon meeting Thomas feels nothing but slight contempt, and still struggles to remember anything about the man. Slowly the plot around her begins to unravel and she discovers a lot more about her city, and her family, than she ever meant to.

Granted it’s not the most imaginative of plotlines, but if you go into this novel with an open mind you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. Lawrence manages to take a trope of novels across the ages (two young lovers who society dictates cannot be together) but manages to add in layers of suspicion, magic and conspiracies to create an entirely new concept.

What I liked most is the narrative style of the book. Presented from Aria’s point of view, we the readers are not an omniscient observer, but rather we learn things as Aria does, allowing us to be drawn into the same lies, the same blackmail and the same hope that Aria experiences. Aria herself is very well written, going through character development perhaps a little quickly due to the briefness of the book itself, and her family unit as a whole are equally as well written if not half as likeable – the father was a particular favourite of mine. The ‘gorgeous’ rebel Hunter (don’t worry about forgetting quite how gorgeous this rebel is, Lawrence is sure to remind you every time you meet him) is also given a reasonable punt at character development, but some facets of his character are severely lacking. A little more thought for his history and motivations would have added so much to the story, but sadly the character just falls short because of this. Unfortunately most of the secondary characters are given this same treatment and, as a result, the supporting cast of the book appears weak, with characters appearing and disappearing without being given much reason, thought or motivation.

Overall, the book is worth a read if you want something entertaining but not particularly challenging. The characters, plot and writing are all decent enough to get you hooked and keep you there until the end of the book and I found myself wanting to seek out the second of the series – which must be a good sign.

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