City of Light by Keri Arthur

City of Light is the first 2016 title that I'm reading this year. And what a rollicking start to this year's titles! This is the first Keri Arthur title that I'm reading as well - and I'm pretty impressed.

City of Light marks the start to a new post-apocalyptic series set in an interesting world that's survived a deadly 'race' war - humans pitted against 'shifters'. A gritty dark world where darkness  holds more dangers than you can count. And vampires may the least of your troubles. As the bombing during the race-war created holes in our world - that let the "others" in. And so humans and shifters now live under an uneasy truce in artificially lit up cities scrounging out a miserable existence.

The world building hits you from the start - refreshingly original and very atmospheric. Keri does a great job of transporting us right into the thick of this layered world - through the eyes of our central protagonist, Tig. Now Tig is an interesting choice for a central character - she is neither human or shifter. She's a humanoid, the result of experiments during the war, a supersoldier type known as 'dechet' and her particular skill is luring people. A spy? Her body type is a mix of several DNA's - human, shifter, vampire - you name it.

The story picks up pace from the first chapter itself where Tig rescues a child stuck out near her living quarters ( an abandoned military lab with several levels - far way from the lit up Central city where the majority of the population lives) - from the attack of a horde of vampires.  By this act, though - Tig's tranquil existence unknown to the rest of the world is blown apart. She is unwittingly pulled into a fight - against a new conspiracy threatening the world. Old friendships are renewed while new enemies pop up by the dozen. uneasy alliances, trust is a forgotten word and the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Tig's character is easy to like - in some ways more human than human, her friendship with the 'ghosts' in the lab an endearing thing that struck me pretty early. The raw deal that dechets have been dealt out by both humans and shifters is a recurring theme throughout the story - the war that ended more than a hundred years ago popping up every now and then. Keri beautifully demonstrates how the world today is shaped by the war and is still under the grips of distrust and suspicion sowed more than a hundred years ago. Her world building is masterfully done - it feels real and lived-in - a gritty dark place where life by no means is pretty. This book is only the opener to this wonderful series that seems to seamlessly mesh together futuristic sci-fi elements with magic - done in an effortless manner. The pacing is right-on - and the mysteries surrounding the kidnappings only seemed to deepen as we move along the story. There are several other characters - Nuri, the powerful witch lady who seems to be leading a rebel group, Jonas - the 'hot' shifter whom Tig saves from the vampire attack and to whom she is undeniably attracted to, Sal - her oldest friend from the war-days. All of them nicely fleshed out yes, but I personally would have liked to see perhaps a few more POVs. Perhaps Cat and Bear could have had a voice ?

All things done, I felt this is a compelling fascinating opener to a great series. Keri gives a strong heroine who's going through an emotional tsunami because of the choices she's made and some she has to take on about the future of this world - welding together fantasy and sci-fi in a beautifully believable manner, pacing out an intriguing story filled with non-stop action and some sizzling sex-on-the-side romantic interludes. Keri is an author I am going to watch out for - and the Outcast is a series I am going to follow up with. Good start to 2016, aye? 


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