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Title: Shadow City
Author: Anna Mocikat
Published: 7th of November 2019 – Black Rose Writing
Format: Kindle Edition – 257 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
After a not so great week last week, I spent a few days relaxing and being lazy, but most importantly reading! I’m feeling a bit better this week so I am going to try to get loads of things done before the weekend (I feel a Netflix binge coming on).
A few months ago, I read Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat for the Booktamins tour that was hosted, and I absolutely loved it. It was my first science fiction cyberpunk read, but it was great! After the review went up, the author reached out to me and was kind enough to send me a free copy of her other book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I’m trying to broaden my horizons in my reading tastes this year, so this was definitely different as I don’t read that many science fiction books. Keep reading for my thoughts on this book, that can be read as a standalone or in the series order.
Los Angeles is an apocalyptic wasteland. The few survivors of a horrific catastrophe live under the constant threat of radiation, mutated creatures, and worse… lurking in the shadows.
In the ruins of the deserted city, the scavengers Jean and Louis come across a nameless stranger and bring him to the only safe zone, once known as Hollywood. What’s left of society is divided among different factions; mistrust, brute force, and anarchy rule every day’s life. If the struggle for survival wasn’t bad enough, the nuclear disaster has shifted realities as we knew them and brought something into our world which threatens to exterminate the human race. Something so dark, that every living being is horrified of it. Something that feeds on suffering and violence.
But humans aren’t alone in this existential fight. Unexpected allies emerge from the shadows and in the final stand, the nameless stranger will decide humanities fate.
Shadow City by Anna Mocikat is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction dystopia, with some paranormal and fantasy elements. My favourite genre is fantasy, and although I adore dystopian novels, the science fiction and post-apocalyptic vibes were something I read less of.
My first thoughts when starting this book was that this situation could very easily happen in the United States. Whenever I read dystopias, they are nearly always set in America and I always wonder just how long it will be until something like this could ultimately happen. It’s a bit of a scary thought really.
This book is set in America, in Los Angeles, however, it isn’t the Los Angeles we are used to seeing in real life or on TV. This Los Angeles has been turned into a wasteland by the Glitch, a catastrophe that happened over 30 years prior to the events in the book. It isn’t explained what the Glitch really was and the characters don’t seem to really know either, but from this event, quite a few things happened.
Overnight, the world was destroyed and the characters in the book believe that Los Angeles is the only living civilisation, except for vampires who came out of the dark after these events, but also mutants and creatures called the Dark Ones.
I have to say that the setting was quite eerie, I wasn’t expecting it to be so desolate, but it really gives you a creepy sensation and I really hope this doesn’t happen someday ahah! I quite like the world-building, I really got a feel for this world, but I would, however, have preferred to know more about the Glitch and how Los Angeles became so destroyed, we might get those answers in the next book though.
I also want to say a little something about the creatures in this book. There are normal humans, a small population living in the Zone, a safe and secured place in the middle of Los Angeles, garden by the people working for the Human Force. However, there are also cyborgs from something called the Academy, raiders, mutants (half-animal, half-human, and very aggressive), vampires and Dark Ones which I don’t really know what they are, to be honest, but I’m sure we will know more in book two. The issue I had with this book concerning all these creatures is that there are a lot, I’m used to reading fantasy and there are a lot of creatures in those books, but I’m used to seeing these creatures paired differently, so to speak vampires, werewolves, faeries, demons together and then the cyborgs, mutants and other weird radioactive creatures together. I’m not used to seeing these two groups brought together and I have to admit it was a bit weird and a bit much for me to have all these creatures, a post-apocalyptic survivalist setting, human soldiers, mutants, radioactivity, etc.
As any fantasy or science fiction reader will know, there are often many characters in these books, and sometimes this can get quite heavy. I didn’t really have this problem here, but I’m not going to go into detail about each character, so instead, I chose a few that I liked or had things to say about!
Jean: I suppose there isn’t really one single main character in this book, and these characters are all special and really important in their own way. Jean is one of the teenagers who were born about 15 years after the Glitch, she lives in the Zone and goes out raiding with her brother Louis to bring back anything they can find for their ailing father Norman. I quite liked Jean’s character, unfortunately, I thought that we didn’t get that much of an insight into her.
Colton: I didn’t really know what to think of Colton at the start, and as the book went along, I was wondering if he had an ulterior motive, but I’m still rather intrigued by this character. He appears in Los Angeles, naked and confused and is taken in by Louis, Jean and their father once they bring him back to the Zone. I don’t want to go into much detail about him, but I will say that a lot happens, and he happens to be the reason behind a lot of it. I’m still not really sure who or what he is, and I’m really hoping to get that information in book two because I need answers and I’m worried that this revelation is getting a bit too drawn-out.
Eric: Eric is one of the vampires who works for the Human Force, and he is basically the head of the vampires in the Zone. There are quite a few vampires in this book, and I’m very used to vampires (they are my favourite creatures, after witches), but I was really not expecting to see them in this setting, so maybe that accounts for my confusion. Again, Eric was quite a vague character, we don’t really learn much about him or what he did before the Glitch, we only know that he was turned just before it and is one of the youngest vampires in Los Angeles.
Bombshell: She is the cyborg, hybrid woman in this book, and I was honestly quite surprised by her appearance because I was expecting there to be supernatural creatures instead of scientific and technological ones. I feel like she is the character we learn the most from, but I still don’t feel like I know much about her, unfortunately, we don’t know her age, but we know that she was part of the bomb-squad and was blown-up one day, this is how she became a cyborg.
Vincent: Vincent was a bit of a weird character, and even at the end knowing he was “something else” but still not what was a bit strange to me. I feel like there are maybe too many creatures in this book. I want to find out who/what Vincent is, but he seems like quite a morally grey character, again, we don’t really get that much of an insight so I can’t say much more.
Eurydice: Now, Eurydice is the villain of this book, but I actually enjoyed reading about her the most probably. We learn a fair bit about this character, she is a vampire, but she is not part of the Human Force, and that’s all I’m going to say about her. I really want to find out what will happen in the next book, especially with the relationship she has with one of the characters and what place she will have in the next events.
There are quite a few perspectives in this book, and it does jump about from one character to another. I usually really like multiple perspectives, but I think this was just a bit too many for my personal taste and sometimes when it jumped perspectives between characters in the same scene it got a bit confusing to me. If you are thinking of reading this book, be aware that there are a lot of characters and a lot of perspectives.
I feel that for how scientifically and technologically advanced the world was just before the Glitch, that the state of the world and Los Angeles in this book is a bit contrasting, I’m sure there is more to this that what we get from the first book, and I’m pretty sure that there is a lot more to learn about the Academy, but I would have enjoyed a bit more information in this book as it leaves you a bit lost and confused at the end.
End of the world/post-apocalyptic setting: I really like books with this sort of setting and I have to say that this was probably one of my favourite parts of the book, but I wish we would know more about the Glitch. If you aren’t a fan of this type of setting, I would stay clear because it’s very prevalent, there are a lot of descriptions and the world is very damaged, as are the people living in it.
Creatures: I have said this before, but there are a lot of creatures or “things” in this book, and the amount of them, over different “categories” (supernational/paranormal versus scientific/technological and the consequence of the Glitch) and unfortunately this was a bit much for me. If you are used to reading books where all these species are mixed together, you should enjoy it, and I did enjoy it, but I feel like there were too many of everything, as if every single creature had been stuffed into the plot to make it both fantasy and science fiction.
War/fighting/survival: There is a lot of fighting in this book, and by the end of it, there is a clear war and the taking of sides. The war and strategies of it aren’t that prevalent, but there is a lot of fighting. There is also a lot of survival and it was quite interesting to see the lengths and measures taken by this community to survive. I quite liked learning about the Human Force, but again it seemed a little bit vague and I would have liked a bit more information about it.
Violence/death/gore: If you are squeamish and you don’t like reading about death, killings, violence and gore, then I don’t think this book is for you. Right from the start, there is a lot of killing and fighting, and a lot of it is quite gruesome and gory. I don’t mind this at all, but I am aware that it could bother some people.
I have to add that there are not any trigger warnings in this book, but I think that it would be advantageous to add them because they are quite a few and this book is not for the sensitive, squeamish or easily triggered reader.
Trigger warnings: post-apocalyptic setting, death of a parent, radioactivity, mutations, paranormal/supernatural creatures, attempted sexual assault (rape), abuse, physical assault and injury, violence, death, cyborgs, religious fanaticism, an instance of slavery, abduction, killings, blood and gore.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, I quite enjoyed this book, it was fairly new to me and I’m not that much of a fan of the mix of fantasy and science fiction, so this was a bit confusing and jarring to me, especially with the mix of all the creatures that seemed a bit much, but this is my personal taste, so I’m sure others will love these elements. There was also a lack of information about a lot of things that bothered me a few times, but I am hoping that the next book in the series will give me the answers I need.
The writing style was good and I enjoyed reading it, however, there were quite a few instances that bothered me and broke the flow and made it quite clunky, so I think a touch of editing would be really advantageous, especially because the plot is a good one. The plot was quite original and I’m intrigued to see where it would go. The characters were, unfortunately, a bit vague to me, and I hope it is just a case of lacking information that we will get in the next book, as I want to learn more about them.
This book also has very, very long chapters and that is something that I’m not really a fan of. Inside these really long chapters, there are sort of separate sections where the POV changes or the setting changes, and I think it would have been better to actually cut the chapters off at this point and make a new one because by the middle of each chapter I was starting to lose the thread of events. It made it a bit drawn out and I think, for my personal taste that shorter chapters would have made it a bit more fast-paced and also given it a better structure because it’s just much too long for my taste.
I gave this book 3 stars, I did enjoy reading it and it was a good reading experience, apart from the clunky-ness, lack of information and presence of so many creatures that jarred me a little bit. I’m looking forward to reading book 2 as I want to know more. I would recommend to science fiction and fantasy readers, but be aware of the trigger warnings.
Thank you so much to Anna for reaching out to me and sending me a copy of your book to review. I am looking forward to the next one.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review, see you soon, stay safe,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – ANNA MOCIKAT
Anna Mocikat was born in Warsaw, Poland, but spent most of her life in Germany where she attended film school, worked as a screenwriter and a game writer for several years.
Her “MUC” novels have been nominated for the most prestigious awards for Fantasy and Science-Fiction in Germany.
In 2016 Anna moved to the USA where she continued her writing career.
“Shadow City” was her debut in English in 2019. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina, and is a proud dog-mom of three rescues who assist her when she’s writing.
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Audible FR (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK