In “Phoenix,” the second book in the “Black City” series, Elizabeth Richards continues to build on the horrors of a future society where a leader named Purian Rose seeks to purify society by ridding the world of the Darklings, vampire-like creatures, and other non-human beings.
The protagonists, Ash and Natalie, who alternately tell the story in present tense, first person narrative, are in love. But Ash is a Darkling and Natalie is not. They have joined to demand freedom and equality for the Darklings, but Purian Rose will stop at nothing in his quest for total power.
He wants to pass a law segregating the Darklings (also called “Nippers”), but it’s learned that what he really intends is to send all Darklings to a concentration-like camp where the young and healthy will be forced to work in factories and the others will be killed or become the objects and victims of testing. Sound familiar?
Natalie notices that she has some funny physical anomalies which will make the reader wonder what is happening to her — but strangely, Ash doesn’t notice anything wrong at all. Richards does create some strife between Ash and Natalie (he proposes in the beginning of the story, but things do not stay rosy) and that works fairly well although purists might find the love triangle element of the story a bit contrived.
While some of the book suffers from “middle-book syndrome,” seems to be a place-holder for “Wings,” the third book in the trilogy, and consists of much action, action, running and more action, the last part of the book does bring many twists and surprises. And the action that Richards writes is effective, exciting and carefully described.
Richards excels at creating an alternative world and creatures that we can easily picture. She also does a fine job of creating characters who are likable and who become important to the reader. While “Phoenix” has a few weaknesses, they certainly do not overpower the strength of the plot and characters. Readers will be waiting anxiously for the last novel in this exciting series.
Please note: This review is based on the hardcover book provided by the publisher, Putnam Juvenile, for review purposes.
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