Cover Image: Tarnished City

Tarnished City

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A good second book in the Dark Gifts series.  The powerful aristocrats seem to have total control, but it's nice to see the strengths of some of the non-magical characters. Good set up for the concluding book in the series.
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Vic James returns us to the world of the Gilded Cage and the Equal Republic of Great Britain.  Teen and adult fantasy readers will delight in the world-building, duty to family, and suspense.  Silyen and members of other "skilled" families struggle to maintain their powerful hold over "unskilled" families in slave cities like Millmoor and its like while Luke, Abi and others plot to re(gain) their livelihoods and futures.
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I really loved Luke as a character, he was my favorite character. I only gave it 3 stars because I didn't care for how the book ended. If the book ended a little better, I would have at least given it a 4 star. The rest of the other characters I didn't really connect with as much. I did like one other character but I couldn't remember his name. But its the guy that's suppose to be the bad guy,it starts with an S I believe. I loved his and Luke's interaction. I didn't care for (I can't remember her name, ) maybe Abby. Probably totally wrong.
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The first book was epic, and I was really looking forward to this one, especially after that ending! This one was really good, but it didn't capture my attention as much as the previous one. I will still be looking forward to the third and final book!
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Full review forthcoming....................................................................................................................................................................
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5 Words: Power, control, torture, magic, rebellion.

If you know me then you'll know how much I loved the first book. So going into Tarnished City I was a little apprehensive. Because what if it wasn't as good? Turns out I needn't have worried as Tarnish City is just as excellent. Oh yes.

Again Avita Jay does a splendid job with the audiobook, bringing the characters to life.

I still have so much love in my heart for Silyen and Abi, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
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Not bad at all for a middle book. The pace kept right on roaring along and the author didn't rest on her momentum. Looking forward to see how it all wraps up.

This review is in exchange for a free e-galley received from
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Better than the 1st in the series. Unique and highly entertaining. This is a great Teen-Adult crossover title. Will have broad appeal. Easy to recommend.
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Tarnished City by Vic James is a book that I ABSOLUTELY had to listen to. This book is the sequel to Gilded Cage. With the way that Gilded Cage ends, there’s no way I am not continuing. And so, as I said I above, I immediately put a hold on this audiobook at the library. I could have read a physical copy, either as an eARC or a Hardcover. I just wanted to continue reading in the same format that I had already become accustomed to, however. Now I am ready for book three to see how everything plays out and ends for the Dark Gifts trilogy.

Okay, so, Tarnished City takes the dark nice of Gilded Cage and brings it up a notch. Basically the story picks up with Abi and Luke reunited for a hot few seconds. They then proceed to spend the rest of the book apart. Luke is forced to wear a golden, magical collar, given his rebellion. He’s also shipped off to a remote castle run by this sadistic lord who was said to have murdered another Equal. Abi is a fugitive from Millmoor. Daisy is still with the Jardines taking care of the baby. Gavar is getting married to another Skilled person named Bouda, who is the worst. And well, Silyen is kind of hard to really place into a category box. There’s a few storylines and a LOT going on.

The ending to this book is really wild. I mean, there’s something really dark that happens and I was just hoping against hope. Then there’s kind of this zero hour thing. It’s just really tense. I enjoyed reading that. Granted, I am still looking back at this book thinking about it and reflecting on it. It is very grim. I liked it, but I also wish that I had physically read it so that I retained more of it.

Avita Jay also narrated the audiobook of Tarnished City. She does a nice job. I also listened to this one sped up — this time at 1.75 speed. It’s a relatively decent audiobook. It is well produced. There’s nothing really wrong with it. I am not sure how I will experience the next book in this trilogy though. The audio was good, but I am leaning hard towards physically reading it.
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Tarnished City is an outstanding sequel to Gilded Cage. The story is darker and even more exciting. The stakes are high. This is a hard one to get into the plot for fear of spoiling the series, but just know it holds up. The series gets better from here. It is fast-paced and unputdownable. Highly recommended!
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This is the second book in Vic James Dark Gifts exciting trilogy. It picks up where we left off . Luke is now a prisoner , Abi is on the run . I will say you need to read the first book to get the whole story for these characters . The story takes place in Britain where the world is governed by Equals upper Gentry with magical skills. If you are an ordinary citizen you have to be a slave for 10 years . The characters are so intriguing and the book is so well written you become enthralled with the story. You will be angry and sad at some injustices . All in all this a thrilling series and I cannot wait for the third
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I struggled through Gilded Cage because I found it to be an intriguing but very bleak read. This second volume in the series was a real page-turner, though. 

The action picks up right where the previous book left off, with slaves Luke and Abi facing their fates as a prisoner and a newly minted revolutionary, respectively. Luke has to adjust to an unusual prison that consists of mind games as well as casual cruelty. Abi and Luke’s friends plot his rescue before turning their attention to overthrowing the Slave Days system and the rule of the Equals. Meanwhile, brothers Gavar and Silyen both also chafe at the Equal regime now led by their father, if for different reasons. 

Part of my difficulty with the first book was the huge power imbalance between the ordinary people and the Equals, which made their resistance seem almost futile. That imbalance remains, but the resilience of the freedom fighters keeps it from being quite so prominent this time around. However, the world depicted is full of brutality, and people do die, including some of the important characters from the first book.

One thing that really intrigues me about this novel is the way the author depicts the Equals in her story. Some of them do horrible things, but they aren’t all one-dimensional baddies. For example, the first book opens with Gavar murdering his slave lover, the mother of his child, which would seem to make him irredeemable. In this book, though, we learn some additional information about that death, which casts Gavar in a somewhat different light. And while he’s no revolutionary willing to pursue change for the sake of justice or some other ideal, more practical considerations seem to be leading him in the same direction. (The various motivations for and the paths the characters are taking toward regime change are really a highlight of the book.)

I think Gavar’s brother Silyen is the most fascinating character, though. At first, he seemed like a sociopath, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Something he says near the end of the book suggested to me that he might be more of “the end justifies the means” kind of person, willing to accept necessary casualties to achieve his aims. But what his goals are and who they will truly benefit are murky, to say the least. I’m really curious as to how his objectives tie into the connection he has formed with Luke, the other character I find interesting. 

So, I’m hooked and will definitely be reading the next book in the series. I’d highly recommend it to readers interested in dark fantasy with political themes.

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.
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I'm really enjoying this series and cannot wait for the third!
I think it's really unique in what the author does with magic and the characters are so twisty it's hard to grasp who are the good guys vs the bad guys. I maintain my opinion from book 1, Silyen is my favorite brother and I'm excited to see where his story goes in book 3!
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I love the plot idea, but the execution was severely lacking.
-Too many characters and told from too many perspectives.  No emotional connection could be made with any character because you do not get to spend more than a handful of pages with anyone.
-Too much "telling" rather than showing.
-Poor world building, info-dumping only when it is convenient to the plot.
-Personal pet peeve: always saying each characters first and last name.  Silyen Jardine. Bouda Matravers. Luke Hadley.  Maybe if you focused on 3 characters instead of 30, the readers wouldn't need to be reminded who they are all the time.

Disappointing.  Won't be continuing this series.
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I'm a bit disappointed with Tarnished City. The first in the series, Gilded Cage, held potential to kick off a great series but much like many a sequel, this book fell short. And it begins with the plot.

Have you ever read a book that didn't really go anywhere? I felt that way with Tarnished City, as if I was being turned in circles until the very end when FINALLY something big happened. The last quarter of the book (maybe not even that much, to be honest) was fantastic. Not only were tensions high but things were happening, I was intrigued. I needed more. And THAT ENDING. I was finally hooked. 

A little too late.

The first 75% of the book lacked that excitement. I'm not talking constant action scenes because I don't need that, but I do need the stakes to be upped from the first book, for there to be a drive, a reason to want to follow these characters. I didn't get that until the end which is good in terms of engaging readers to pick up the upcoming third book but not so good when it comes to my faith in this series to really bring it home. 

I'll say this, though: James didn't pull her punches when it came to the content. I thought Gilded Cage was gloriously dark but Tarnished City takes it a step further into the land of gritty and gruesome. This book may not be suited to younger readers, though that's ultimately up to you. While I enjoyed the fact that James didn't gloss over the underside of this world, at times it didn't flow either and felt thrown in for shock value rather than a necessary plot point.

As for the characters. . . I still don't like Luke. I find him boring. Sure, he does some exciting things but I don't care about him. I'm not invested, therefore his chapters became a chore to get through. His sister, Abi, on the other hand, was much more interesting especially at the end. She's the intelligent, determined heroine I enjoy reading about. I'm also glad we got in the head of Silyen because the enigma that he is drove me crazy last book. Out of all the characters, he's the one I want to follow. A bit morally gray with plenty of secrets, he makes me want to know more. I'm hooked. And even his brother (I won't spoil which one) became a person of interest, as well as one of the reasons I still plan to read book 3.

If you read Gilded Cage, expect some of the same pacing issues but a much darker story. While it wasn't a bad sequel, it didn't impress, acting as the set-up for the finale. Which, if it's anything like the end of Tarnished City, could be the best book in the series. But in terms of this book, it felt like too much filler for my tastes.
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An impressive sequel!
I loved diving back into the world of the Skilled and Skilless. Strong characters in a fascinating world that resonated with me, especially in light of recent events. Family, love, loyalty, morality all play a part. I can’t wait to see where this fascinating tale leads next.
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When I read Gilded Cage, the first book in the Dark Gifts series, I found it to be quite enjoyable but thought that it fell a bit short of what it could be. Tarnished City is one of the rare sequels that is better than the original. It is darker, more twisty, and overall much more interesting. Tarnished City shines a more critical eye on the power structure and imbalances inherent to this world while also expanding the focus of the series beyond the main characters. This book started off a bit slow but by the time I'd read a few chapters, I was completely and utterly hooked. 

After the events of Gilded Cage, Luke has been condemned for the murder of Chancellor Zelston. Taken away from his family, he fights to survive in a prison that wouldn't be out of place in a horror novel. Abi, desperate to prove her brother's innocence, is on the run. Not knowing who to trust, she goes to Millmoor in search of Heir Meilyr. However, stripped of his Skill and damaged, Heir Meilyr is struggling to survive each day. At the same time, Bouda is solidfying her political position with questionable means. Silyen, the ultimate wildcard, is researching Skill for his own purposes.

Tarnished City was a huge, multi-character epic story. There were a variety of viewpoints, which allowed for an understanding of the complex political situation from all sides. While it may be too much for some readers, I loved the amount of detail and political plotting included in this novel. However, the political aspect was nicely balanced out by the action-oriented plot. Overall, the story was thoroughly enjoyable. I love that I'm not entirely sure of each character's end game. In general, I'm intrigued and excited by the direction the story is heading.

The broader scope of Tarnished City meant that the main characters, namely Luke, Abi, and Silyen, weren't as present. However, I really liked all of the new secondary characters introduced. They had more diversity in terms of viewpoints, political beliefs, and experience that added another level of richest to the novel. There was also more exploration of privilege and unequal power dynamics in this novel, particularly in terms of political and romantic relationships. James did an excellent job of portraying the effect of these dynamics on the characters relationships. They felt significantly more realistic and added a lot of the depth that was missing in the first book.

Tarnished City was a complex, constantly shifting novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. That cliffhanger was somewhat brutal. Although it draws many of the storylines in this novel to a close, it still managed to leave me anxiously awaiting Bright Ruin. I would recommend this series to readers who enjoy a darker, more politically inclined dystopian world.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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4.5/5 *

TARNISHED CITY is an amazing follow-up to last year's GILDED CAGE. In fact, I think I liked this one just a little bit more!

Even though I see this listed and shelved as YA, it's much darker than most YA I've tried, (which admittedly is not a lot because it's usually too angst-y for me.) In this case however, the author nixes a lot of the extraneous stuff and focuses on the characters and the intricately plotted story. 

It took me a little while to get back into the flow, (it's been just over a year since I've visited this world),  but once I did, I was so happy to be there! There's no real re-cap, which I appreciated. I feel that if an author's characters are strong enough, they should come back without my having to be reminded and these certainly did. There's a big cast here and the characters refer to other characters using the names by which they know them-sometimes resulting in 2 or 3 different names for a person, depending upon the point of view at the time.

I noted that a lot of what is going on here is going on in the real world right now. Perhaps not slavery exactly,  (those with no Skill must serve 10 years as a slave), but classism, (against those born with no Skill), and the increasingly outspoken attitudes and acceptance of those with racist views. It comes all the way up to the sanction of violence against those who disagree or who dare to stand up against those in power. I guess I'm trying to say that it's obvious to me that the author knows what she's talking about as far as how the story relates to the world today, and it's downright scary. 

I feel like I needed to make these points, but now that I have, I want to say how much I loved this tale! I loved the characters, they're well drawn and oh, so human. They aren't perfect, in fact, many of them are downright horrible people, but they're fun to read about. The machinations and the conniving going on rival that in any adult fantasy that I've read-with the added bonus of not having to wait 5+ years for the next book! 

I say BRAVO, Vic James! You've created a compelling, fun and interesting world, populated with deep, complicated characters and I can't wait to come back to it once again. Highly recommended! 

*Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*
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Just published this week, TARNISHED CITY by Vic James is the second book (after Gilded Cage) in the Dark Gifts Trilogy. Taking place in a futuristic Britain, this work of fantasy concentrates on the power struggle between the privileged, led by the magically proficient and power-hungry Jardine family, and their rebellious slaves, called the Unskilled. The latter group includes Abi Hadley, currently a fugitive, and her brother, Luke, condemned to prison in Scotland for an assassination he did not commit. Author James describes a harrowing existence filled with betrayal, secrets, and political intrigue. These books are dark, cruel, and complicated. If you like dystopian action adventure, start with Gilded Cage and then turn to TARNISHED CITY. The final book, Bright Ruin, is scheduled for publication in October.
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