Last week at Bookshelves of Doom, I wrote about Elizabeth Richards’ Black City, a sci-fi/paranormal dystopian that reads like a mash-up of Legend, Twilight, The Hunger Games and the Blood of Eden series: Two teenagers, one of the vampire variety, fall in instalove (Twilight) but their love is tragically star-crossed because they’re on opposing sides in an ongoing political conflict. The girl realizes that she’s on the wrong side, however, so she joins the resistance with her guy and they alternate narration to tell the story of how (Legend) one of them becomes the symbol of the resistance, determined to take down the evil dictator of this future version of the United States (The Hunger Games) in which there is a vampire-related infectious disease that causes rabid, cannibalistic behavior (Blood of Eden).
If you really liked Black City, then I’d say go ahead and read Phoenix, because you may well enjoy it. The prose stylings are comparable to the first book in that there’s more of an emphasis on cinematics than world-building or character development. There’s loads of action (Richards doesn’t shy away from the gore) and there’s a very high body count that doesn’t only include unnamed characters. Also, there’s a map, which is something that many, many Hunger Games fans will appreciate. I’d advise skipping the rest of this column, though, because A) there will be spoilers and B) I’m about to get ranty.
Again, below this line, THERE BE SPOILERS.
I have eight simple words that would have saved Ash and Natalie, like, 350 pages of angst-filled idiocy: JUST FREAKING TALK TO EACH OTHER, YOU MORONS.
Example #1: So, Purian Rose (he’s the dictator—you can tell, because he’s got the same name as a BEAUTIFUL FLOWER, which is IRONIC, because he is EVIL) tells Ash that if Ash doesn’t publicly vote for the Let’s Round Up All The Vampires And Put ’Em In Concentration Camps law, that he’ll kidnap Natalie and torture her to death.
A) Use the hackers working for the Resistance to make a promo spot—which they totally have the capability to do, seeing as how they’ve been making them and airing them for weeks now—in which he tells the country that Purian Rose has just personally threatened his Lady Love, and thus gaining more sympathy for his cause;
B) Tell Natalie what’s going on, thus alerting her to the fact that her life is in danger, and I dunno, allowing her to have some say in her own fate; or
C) Tell no one, and just angst about it for 50 pages.
If you guessed C, you’re CORRECT.
Example #2: Natalie, meanwhile, has been feeling a bit off ever since she was bitten by a Wrath-infected Darkling in Book One. On a hunch, she tests her blood, and it turns out that she is, indeed, infected.
A) Tell Ash; or
B) Act all squirrelly around him and then ACTIVELY ALLOW HIM to assume that she’s HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH A CAT-BOY rather than tell him what’s really going on, because TELLING HIM WILL BREAK HIS HEART, and it’s better for him to assume that she’s cheating on him than for him to know that she’s gravely ill.
If you guessed that she chooses solitary, miserable suffering for both of them, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU WERE RIGHT!
Finally, while I’m on the subject of Ash and Natalie and their romantic problems...remember how I mentioned instalove? Well, see, it’s more than that. In this world, vampires have what’s called a Blood Mate. Once they bond, that’s it: Their hearts LITERALLY beat as one. When one feels emotional pain, the other one feels it, etc., etc., and due to a childhood heart transplant, even though she’s a human, Natalie is Ash’s Blood Mate. While I generally have issues with that sort of nonagency-having love story, in this case, I set said issues aside in favor of a larger issue: In Phoenix, Richards introduces a love triangle.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.