Monday, July 7, 2014

Books on Trial: Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

Hardcover, 397 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Toronto Public Library

Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud - and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths.

But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place.

Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection - and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city - including herself.

The "witness testimonies" are from the top three opinions on Goodreads as of the posting date. The reviews have earned their position based on number of likes. The "testimonies" are:
This book has:

1. A weak, spoiled, wealthy TSTL socialite heroine whose attempts to do good are as laughable as a pet kitten bringing me a half-eaten mouse
2. A love...tri..quadr...hexa...thingamajig
3. A poorly conceived and largely nonsensical setting
4. A love interest with stalkerish tendencies
5. A plot that's 90% romance and 10% story, with not a single bit of subtlety
6. Villains that stand around twirling their mustaches and cackling maniacally

-Khanh (Kittens, Rainbows and Sunshine 

A much more accurate blurb would be: a Romeo and Juliet retelling with magical people who are nowhere as cool as the X-Men.


I’ve rated Mystic City three stars, which means, I enjoyed reading it, all in all. There has been a lot of eye-rolling, a lot of 'Yes-Buts' and a lot of "Do-You-Think-I-Am-Dense", which I will explain shortly, but the heroine was thoroughly likable and brave, the hero attractive, super-powered and mysterious, the romance – although instantly there and super-kitschy – pretty romantic, the villains villainous, the action plenty and rapid and the world-building – although unbelievable – vividly painted in rich, sparkling detail and rather creative...


Mystic City would make a better romance story than fantasy novel.

Lawrence himself said he was inspired by Romeo and Juliet. I think that would have been a better comparison than X-Men or Hunger Games. There really was no action in this book, except for at the end. The first 90% dealt with Aria Rose trying to get back her memory and discover the truth. Which could have been suspenseful and exciting if it wasn't so obvious to the audience what had happened.

Mystic City could have been really good. The world of Mystics in a futuristic Manhattan, as well as the concept behind the story, had promise. The problem lay in its predictability, which made its main character, Aria, look like an idiot. There were times when I found myself screaming at her. The girl wakes up with no memory, and has her manipulative, gangster parents tell her she had a secret romance with the enemy. Their relationship magically ends a century-long cold war between the families. What does she do? Not rebel agaisnt the idea, or wonder if her MANIPULATIVE, GANGSTER parents are lying? No, she accepts it. When she finally starts to question what happened to her, her thoughts fade away whenever she's getting close to the answer. The answer which everyone in the "audience" has known for chapters!

For the most part, I could excuse Aria's blindness to the truth. No one wants to believe their parents are evil. I just wished she would have "woken up" sooner. Especially when she was saying stuff like, "Ooh, I'm so suspicious" (okay, that's a paraphrase). If you were suspicious, you'd be playing around with multiple theories in your head, no matter how batshit crazy they were!

When Aria wasn't blundering around, she was reasonably likable. She believed in equality and wanted it for the people of Manhattan. Her conversations with Hunter were engaging (and sounded nothing like the cheesy love letters they sent to each other). The love thingamajig, as Khanh stated above, seemed unnecessary. I love the way Khanh described it in her full-length "testimony":

A is engaged to B (who is fucking C) while secretly in love with D (but shouldn't be) because D is secretly engaged to E, who graciously sacrifices everything because she loves both A and D.

Really, Davida's sacrifice could have been justified without the engagement to Hunter (D). Hunter and Aria were important to the Mystic cause, and both her friends, as well, so why not just leave it at that? Why add a whole other weird level to this romance?

If you like your fantasy romantic, Mystic City is the book for you. If you're expecting the action of X-Men or The Hunger Games, find something else to read. Therefore, I find Mystic City GUILTY as charged by the testimonies. But, since it wasn't horrendous, I'll still read the sequel, Toxic Heart. One day.

Next week I'll be trying... 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

About the Author
Theo Lawrence is a graduate of Columbia University and the Juilliard School. A Presidential Scholar in the Arts for Voice, he has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Off-Broadway.