Friday, February 27, 2015

City of Eternal Night by Kristen Painter

The Basics:
City of Eternal Night by Kristen Painter
Urban Fantasy
Book Two in the Crescent City series
Published December 2, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Why I picked up this book:

The cover of City of Eternal Night is so striking and I'm always looking for new, good urban fantasy.


Still coming to terms with their unexpected partnership, Augustine and Harlow have a tentative truce. With Harlow slowly working to accept being fae, Augustine still learning how to be Guardian, and feelings growing on both sides though, they do not have an easy road ahead.

But when a young girl is stolen from the Mardi Gras Exemplar Ball -- the biggest far event of the year -- Harlow and Augustine must put all their issues aside to bring her home alive. Harlow's father, Braziano, is of course their number one suspect, but evil lurks in every corner of the city and time is running out. Their only choices: Either find a way to rescue the girl, or Augustine must die.

My thoughts:

There was a time when every book I read was urban fantasy, and City of Eternal Night made me temporarily long for those days again. There's just something really fun about having humans running about alongside Fae, witches, and other supernatural creatures.

City of Eternal Night is the second book in the Crescent City series, and I haven't read the first book. I would probably recommend going back to it - I never felt lost, and this book does a good job of providing all the background information I needed to ground myself in the story. But! I think I would have had a stronger attachment to all the characters - Augustine and Harlow, but also secondary characters such as Lally - if I'd read the first book, which is important to me. There were some things that were tossed out there - such as Augustine being formerly such a ladies man - that just didn't seem accurate to me in this book. Perhaps in the first book he behaved more like the charming ladykiller everyone made him out to be?

The most positive aspect of City is definitely the world in which it is set. It comes across as a complex, rich, well-developed universe, layered with history, traditions, unique social etiquette as well as the Fae themselves. Thought has been put into the range and strength of their powers, as well as those of the witches and other magic practitioners. I really appreciated that as I read, I felt the weight of all the world that existed beyond the words on the page - the hierarchy of the Fae government, the existence of 'Haven' cities, the way that the Fae interact with other groups such as humans, witches and so on - sometimes the exact details worked their way into the story and other times, it was clear that the specifics were out there, influencing the story.

The Exemplar Ball was also very cool - the mix of tradition and fancy dress, the decorations and dancing. I loved the details about the costumes, and I think the story starts to pick up a little at around this point. 

The pacing of this book was an issue for me. While the first few chapters gave me a chance to get grounded in the world, the story seemed to drag for me for quite a while. Though 'stuff' (no spoilers here!) does happen, nothing that really kicks things into high gear occurs until the ball, I think. Even then, I ended up skim reading the last third of the book to see what happened without having to plod through it. 

My other problem? Harlow. Now, there were lots of things I liked about her. Most obviously, she has really cool powers - mixing an affinity for technology with the ability to read emotions from skin-to-skin touch and to read 'memory' off of objects. Very cool things to be able to do. I loved that she's got a video game addiction (because I do too and that made it easy to relate to her) and I appreciated that she's off-balance because of all the recent changes in her life (all brought about by events in book one). I liked that she's just starting to flex her confidence when it comes to Augustine and the delightfully described Nekai (whose magic inscribes itself on his skin - why this appeals to me, I'm not really sure, but it does!). Okay, so yes, I liked Harlow quite a bit. She's trying to gain confidence and find her footing, but she's still a little unsure of herself, what she's capable of, and she's got a lot of social anxiety. It makes for an interesting character. Unfortunately, she makes a ridiculously bad decision that I cannot wrap my head around at all. It propels the last section of the book, and I think will give way to the main thrust of book three, but... no. The development could have worked if it had been caused by anything other than what I can only assume was temporary insanity on Harlow's part.

Will I be back for the next book in the series? I honestly don't know. I can see skim reading it to see where things go next, and sinking down into a proper read if the pacing is better?

Bottom line:

City of Eternal Night is a good example of urban fantasy that resists the detective/PI route that seems so popular - though there is an investigation at the heart of it. I loved the world, but had issues with pacing and one major plot point that I wish had been handled differently. I recommend reading the first book in the series and seeing how that goes before diving into this one.
3.5 stars
For fans of urban fantasy, dangerous fae, secrets

But don't just take my word for it! I grabbed a few links to other blog reviews of City of Eternal Night:

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