Tarnished City by Vic James

Tarnished City book cover
Rating 9.6/10
This book has an urgency running throughout which makes it hard to put down.

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Tarnished City is the sequel to Gilded Cage, there will be spoilers for Gilded Cage going forward, my original review can be found here, you will need to have read that Gilded Cage to understand the events of Tarnished City.

After the events of Gilded Cage, Luke is on his way to life imprisonment and reform in Scotland under the care of Crovan, a feared equal known for his cruelty. Abi was sent with her parents to Millmoor, but at the end of Gilded Cage, Abi had managed to make her escape, knowing that she has few friends she intends to rescue Luke and get justice for him. Abi is now in search of allies deciding that she must confront the people who defended her brother at his mock trial, yet Abi doesn’t know if these people are friend or foe.

This is a book with a large cast of characters, on the one hand you have the main focal characters of Luke and Abi, who have both become involved in a much larger plot over the fate of the United Kingdom. Abi and Luke’s chapters are intertwined with chapters dedicated to the thoughts and perceptions of Gavar, Silyen and Bouda, which means we are able to see a lot of different points of view, as well as a well-rounded picture of the rebels, the establishment and the people who are choosing to go there own way.

Abi has to choose between doing what she has always believed to be right or choosing to take the side of those opposed to the Slavedays and coming to see that there is more to do than just saving Luke. We also get to see what happened to a lot of the characters we met in Gilded Cage, like the rest of The Millmoor Games and Social Club who have been rescued by Doc and Angel, these are people who want to end the Slavedays and through them we also get to meet more people both Equal and skill-less, as well as more of the country than in the previous novel. There are also those who are trying to impose stricter rules on those without skill, who see their rightful place as leading the country and producing a dynasty of first amongst Equals to follow their name. They do not see this as a bad thing, even if that means a lot of deaths contrived through subterfuge to cement their power.

We also get to read more about Silyen, who is definitely one of the most interesting characters in the novel, especially in terms of motivation, as he continues his experiments with Skill. Silyen’s feat at the end of Gilded Cage has awoken in the younger generation of Equals a need to see what they can do with Skill. It seems, that with the creation of the Slavedays, Equals forgot what they could do with their Skill and how powerful they actually are, whereas now they have become petty and lazy. Although the Equals use their powers to quell the populace into doing what they want, it seems that they believe, that with the passing of generations they have lost some of their fabled forbear's power. In Tarnished City, we get to see that this isn’t the case, not just with Silyen, but with a number of surprising characters who manage to use their powers in ways they had not previously thought to.

Tarnished City is also quite a shocking and dark book. With the death of a major character at the end of Gilded Cage, it shouldn’t have been so surprising, yet I think this book had more of an emotional punch to it due to the fact that we get to know the characters better, allowing the deaths, when they happen, to hit harder emotionally not only for the reader but also affecting the characters, as they realise that their actions have consequences. There are so many twists in the story and it is impressive to see how naive so many characters on both sides are. Whether they are not able to see what is in front of their faces or believing that the law must be on their side. It is surprising how easily some of these characters are manipulated as well as how trusting and untrustworthy people can be. Each character is taking bigger risks for their freedom and to stop the injustices happening in their country.

Although I really enjoyed Gilded Cage, Tarnished City surpasses the first novel in terms of characterisation and plot especially, as we now see more of the UK and how different the Equals are from another, which can be seen in how they treat the people who work on their estates, as well as how they interact with the skill-less on a general basis. This book has an urgency running throughout which makes it hard to put down. I had to keep reading as I wanted to know what would happen next, whether the rebels plotting to overthrow the established way of life will succeed, or if they will be put down once and for all. There is such a rich history to this series that is still slowly being revealed. I genuinely can’t wait to read what happens next in this entertaining world.

This Tarnished City book review was written by

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All reviews for: The Dark Gifts Trilogy

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