Format: E-Book, 416 pages
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Young Adult \ Fantasy
V.E. Schwab meets George Orwell in the darkly fantastical series that began with Gilded Cage—set in a modern-day England where curiously gifted aristocrats reign and the commoners who are doomed to serve them attempt to spark a revolution.
The rebellion to free the lower classes from ten years of forced service to unfairly advantaged, magically powered rulers may have failed. A brother and sister, would-be revolutionaries—one imprisoned, the other desperate for aid—have seen their magical allies stripped of their power, while the mysterious young aristocrat has revealed the incredible extent of his dark gifts.
Story Locale: England
Series Overview: The Dark Gifts Trilogy: In modern Britain, everyone must endure ten years of forced service to a magically gifted aristocracy—and it is up to an ordinary brother and sister to spark a revolution.
Tarnished City is the second installment in author Vic James Dark Gifts trilogy. This story picks up right exactly where Gilded Cage left off, so if you haven't yet read that story, make haste and do so now. This series is set in a sort of modern Britain with a very dystopian feel to it. Magic users control everything: wealth, politics, power—and you. If you’re not one of the ultimate one-percenters—the magical elite—you owe them ten years of service. Do those years when you’re old, and you’ll never get through them. Do them young, and you’ll never get over them.
Unquestionably, this story is about two main families; the Jarden's and the Hadley's. Most especially Luke and Abigail Hadley, Jenner, Silyen, and Gavar Jardine. As the story picks up, Luke is in deep, deep trouble after being found guilty of doing something he has no recollection about. Abi and his parents are being sent to Millmoor, while his younger sister Daisy is staying behind to take care of Gavar's daughter.
Luke is given away to a new master named Lord Crovan who we met in the previous installment. If Luke survives, he may never be the same again. Can anyone save him, or will he find his own allies and save himself?
Meanwhile, Abi finds a way to escape going to Millmoor with her parents who are rightly distraught after what happened to Luke and leaving Daisy behind with the Jardine's. Abi, now a fugitive from her slave days, has no desire to leave Luke behind, especially since the idea of doing their 10 years together as a family was her idea. Now, she must do things that she never would have thought possible. She must put together an alliance to retrieve Luke before he is permanently lost to everyone. If she fails in her attempt, her entire family might end up facing the wrath of the so called Equals. One could say that things actually flip flopped.
I would say that most of this story keys on Abi's exploits, but let's not forget about the political shenanigans from not only the Jardine's, but other characters as well. Let's not forget about Luke and his experiences with other characters who we meet at Crovan's castle. Let's not forget that Silyen is up to something and we haven't yet uncovered what his ultimate plans really are. He knows that he is perhaps the most powerful Equal around, which he has shown time after time.
Whatever Silyen is up to, it is just simmering under the surface waiting to explode and take everyone down.
The character the most individual growth has to be Gavar and that's mostly because of his love for his daughter, his respect for Daisy, and a bold move that saves someone when all hope is lost. Plus the fact that he really doesn't fit in with his family nor has any desire to make his future wife happy and content and close to achieving her goals. One of the darkest & most driven characters to me has to be Bouda Matravers. She doesn't care how many people she has to sleep with or kill in order to get the ultimate power. She'll sleep with your brother, father, sister, mother, uncle, or whomever in order to rise to the top of the ladder.
This is book is filled with shifting alliances, surprising twists and shocking turn of events. It is perhaps the most entertaining book of the trilogy so far. I have to be encouraged by Abi's growth as a character was well. She may have made mistakes, and she will again soon, but she at least has a clue as to what drives her the most; saving her brother. My only real criticism of this entire series so far has been the numerous alternating narratives. I would love to see that cut back in the final installment called Bright Ruin releasing in 2018.
Note: I actually read this book in September. I later realized that it wasn't releasing in the US until February! I choose to write my review now because it is a whole lot closer to February than September was. I have all intention of requesting and reading the sequel once it is posted on either NetGalley or Edelweiss.