2.5 stars. Originally published at Winged Reviews.
It started out with such a great premise—Romeo and Juliet meets the X-Men—and such a gorgeous cover that I immediately knew I had to read it. Sadly, even with the cool dystopian Manhattan setting, Mystic City fails to live up to my expectations.
In this world, Manhattan has suffered from the effects of global warming and is flooded. A new city is built high above the island called the Aeries (which I pictured to be just like the Jetsons) where only the rich live. Mystics (those with special energy and powers) are considered dangerous outcasts who get drained of their powers and are confined to live on the remains of Manhattan in relative squalor. Mystic energy is used to fuel the Aeries, but was also once used as a bomb against the city hence the ‘dangerous’ tag. I thought the world was fascinating and well-realised and I could imagine the colourful lights of the Aeries as well as the polluted rivers down in the Depths vividly.
Where the book fails to impress me is the characters and the plot. Aria Rose is the daughter of one of the most prominent families in the city and the book starts with her waking up from a supposed overdose, engaged to the rival family’s son Thomas. She has no recollection of how they met and fell in love, only that their union is now uniting both families against the growing Mystic threat. Confused and unable feel any affection towards Thomas, she somewhat tries to find answers down in the Depths to questions she doesn’t even know she has.
The majority of characters were insufferable and really under-developed—very one dimensional. For example, Aria’s father was the strict and powerful ‘mafia boss’ and her best friend was a flighty socialite. I found all the teenagers from the Aeries grating and Aria particularly whiny. Most of her motivation (and indeed her actions) were extremely immature, like expecting to feel fireworks when in love. She also suffers from fatalistic heroine syndrome, where she keeps putting herself in unnecessary danger and bears no self-preservation instinct.
Even the romance was superficial. She eventually meets Hunter, a rebel Mystic (one that hasn’t been drained of their powers), who saves her several times during her trips to the Depths. It seems the only reason they fall in love with each other is because of their good looks, which is repeated constantly. It also frustrated me that the tone of the letters written from Aria’s love is wildly inconsistent with any of the characters we meet in the book. It’s a shame because Hunter is normally the type of character I really like—a skilled, witty, strong leader-to-be. However his bizarre attraction to Aria really dampens his style.
The story was interesting, but very predictable. It tried hard to shock and surprise, but I could see most twists coming for miles and even the character reveals were cliché. Without giving anything away, the ending certainly was shocking, but it just left me muddled. I’m hoping the sequel focuses more about the power struggle between the Aeries and the Mystics and all the characters grow up a bit. Really disappointing for a story that had such a great world and so much promise.