Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Size: 368 pages
Publisher: Kensington -Teen
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Black Blade series
Source: eGalley from Netgalley.com
Rating: 3/5 stars
This is the first book in a new young adult urban fantasy series by Estep. Estep also wrote the Mythos Academy series (another young adult urban fantasy series which I enjoyed) and the Elemental Assassin series (an adult urban fantasy series which I enjoyed initially but have since dropped because of inconsistent quality). Lately Estep has been a bit hit or miss for me. This book was okay, but it reminds a lot of her adult Elemental Assassin series…in fact at points I felt like I was reading a book in that series.
Lila is struggling to make a living by working as a thief in a modern day small town. Things are a bit crazier than expected because this small town is the home to many monsters. When Lila interferes in the assassination attempt of one of the towns head Family’s sons her life changes…a lot. Lila is offered (black-mailed into) the position of bodyguard to one of the head family’s sons, Devon. Someone is trying to kill Devon and Lila is in the position of both trying to protect him and trying to figure out who is behind the attacks. As you can imagine this is not a safe position for her to be in.
I was really excited for this series. A modern day town full of monsters and a girl trying to survive in it sounds like an awesome premise. Unfortunately although the eerie monsters are constantly mentioned, they mostly stay in the background..you pretty much never see them. I found this incredibly disappointing. There is all this monster hype throughout the book and then you barely ever see them.
The story ends up being more mob-themed (very similar to the Elemental Assassin series) than anything. You have these different powerful families that are vying for power in this small magical and touristy town. The whole idea of a magical touristy town where the dangers are more real than expected reminded me of Jacqueline Carey’s Agent of Hel series, but was nowhere near as entertaining as that series was.
Lila is very similar to the character Gin from the Elemental Assassin series. Lila is super tough and has survived against the odds. However because of her tough upbringing she is slow to trust and tries to do everything herself. She is also slow to make friends and has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. That pretty much is the exact same character profile as Gin from the Elemental Assassin series.
Additionally the characters all have magical abilities this is incredibly similar to the Elemental ASsassin series as well. The only difference being that in this case the powers are not all Elements. I also thought the magic system presented here was a bit muddy and was never explained all that well. Half way through you find out that people can steal each others magical powers but that is never explained all that well either.
The plot was okay. Again is was mostly focused on solving the mystery of who was trying to kill Devon. The mystery was laid out okay but was mostly one of those quickly wrapped up “aha!” kind of mysteries.
Overall this was an okay urban fantasy. I am intrigued by the idea of a small town with monsters lurking outside and am curious about the magic powers these character wield. However the main character is a carbon copy of Gin from the Elemental Assassin series and many of the story elements are similar to that series as well (mob mentality, individual powers, etc). I was disappointed that so much of the story deals with fights between different Families and not with the monsters (which are mentioned again and again but never really seen).
I am not sure if I will keep reading this story or not. I am starting to feel like Estep can only write the same story over and over. This is the same problem I have had with her Elemental Assassin books; I was really hoping this new series would something exciting and fresh but it’s just more of the same.
If you are looking for a great young adult urban fantasy series check out Annette Marie’s Steel and Stone series instead.
This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
– You Read How Many Books? Reading Challenge