Thank you to author C. H. Wilkins for providing me with a copy of Cities on Fire in exchange for this honest review.
I’m going to start this book review by stating my bias. I don’t like book 1s and I hate open endings and cliffhangers. Does anyone remember when the first book in a series could have a complete plot and came to a conclusion? When exactly did this change and who’s to blame?
I used to be able to read a book in a series and get a full story. The series would then continue with the same world and characters but a new adventure. Now, a series means one really really really long story that requires the reader to read every book to ever get some sort of closure. This also means I’m expected to remember every detail of the previous books even though the books sometime come out years apart. I’m really sick of it.
So, as you’ve probably already assumed, Cities on Fire is a book one. In other words, it’s not a complete novel it’s an introduction to a series. When an introduction is over 300 pages long it starts to feel like the Old Testament, just a long list of names that start to blend into each other until I lose interest.
The beginning of the book and the blurb on the back cover will lead you to believe that the story is about Madison and her new job with the super crime detection agency Aleph. Although this is partly true, Madison isn’t actually present for a large portion of the novel. The bulk of the book is spent introducing countless other players who I suppose will eventually play their own roles somewhere in the series by the time it’s completed.
Now, if you are the kind of reader who likes long stories broken up into several books there are some good qualities in Cities on Fire that may appeal to you. The main villain is delightfully devious and mysterious and is responsible for my favorite subplot. I found that I didn’t care that I wasn’t following the “main character” Madison because this story was more interesting than hers.
The book is full of superheroes, super villains, and technology that has advanced to the point of being magic. It’s a blend of science fiction, action, and fantasy. The blurb describes it as having horror elements but I feel like that’s another misrepresentation of what the novel actually is.
I think the bulk of my disappointment in Cities on Fire is that it’s a completely different book than what I thought it would be going in. I was sold one thing and served something else. Book covers, blurbs, and sales pitches really do matter. I may have liked this book more if hadn’t felt misled.
So, ignore the Goodreads description and pick up Cities on Fire if you like long series with lots of characters and world-building, morally grey superheroes, fantasy mixed with futuristic sci fi, and cliffhanger endings. Don’t let my negative experience deter you from trying something new, ever. This is just my experience and my opinion, it’s not an objectively bad book by any means. I sincerely hope that someone picks this one up and comments below that they had a better reaction and want to continue the Aleph series.
3/5 cities 🌇🌇🌇
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