MYSTIC CITY (Mystic City #1)
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Received from publisher via NetGalley for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Aria Rose, youngest
scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself
betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The
union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite
all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the
city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But
Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes
one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her
parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place.
Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths,
does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that
he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save
or doom the city—including herself.
Mystic City captivates from the first page, the prologue punching us in the gut as love is ripped away and we’re plunged into darkness, blinking awake alongside Aria in chapter one with a hollow emptiness where our hearts should be, wondering how long we’ll have to wait until that emptiness is replaced with the memories that led up to our painful introduction to this world. After our nerves spark to life in the opening pages, we remain on edge, suspicions as to who is responsible for Aria’s memory loss and the reason for it bouncing around in our heads, and with each page turned our bodies suffer an anticipatory shudder, both hoping for and dreading the answers we might find. Aria’s world is a world divided; a gaping chasm between mystics and non-mystics opening ever wider through fear and intolerance, but in our young heroine we find a bridge for the gap, and we read on with a smile as her strength keeps the dangers posed by fear at bay.
Aria is someone we instantly feel a kinship with, both of us starting this journey as blank slates with nothing but a few indistinct flashes of memory to provide us clues as to what’s happened to her. Though her family and her fiancé both try to convince her of their eerily convenient and seemingly rehearsed truths, she remains her own person, constantly questioning even in the face of Thomas’s earnest declarations of love and the stories concocted by her parents. As we do, she senses everything is not what it seems, but instead of meekly submitting to her terrifyingly controlling father she continues to push, risking the wrath of a true monster on the tiny wisps of imagery her battered memory provides to discover the shocking faces villainy and innocence actually wear.
Because of Aria’s amnesia with regard to the love of her life, the romance in this first installment is imbued with an added layer of tension, our knowledge that the one who truly holds her heart has been stolen not just physically, but emotionally as well through a horrifyingly intimate invasion, keeping our blood pumping double-time as we will her to remember everything we can so easily see. Watching Aria reestablish a relationship with Hunter is both beautiful and painful, bringing a smile to our faces as her heart and mind prove to be stronger than the pretty lies she’s fed, while at the same time cutting us to our core as we see Hunter struggle with not only his loss of Aria herself but of her memories of him as well.
Overall, Mystic City is a very dark and enthralling start to this series, the various members of Aria’s family proving to be the type of people that force our lips to curl into an involuntary snarl every time they grace the page, ensuring we have no choice but to become invested and join the rebellion as invisible supporters. Their cruelty is boundless and unfathomable, but after an explosive conclusion we’re left with the confidence that their corrupt rule of the city will be challenged at every turn moving forward, and we can’t help but clap our hands in glee at the prospect of them receiving their comeuppance.