ARC Review: Tarnished City

Tarnished City

Title: Tarnished City

Author: Vic James

Series: Dark Gifts, #2

Publisher: Pan

Release Date: September 7th 2017


Five Stars

In a modern Britain where magic users control wealth, politics – and you – an uprising has been crushed. In its aftermath, two families will determine the country’s fate. The ruthless Jardines make a play for ultimate power. And the Hadleys, once an ordinary family, must find the extraordinary strength to fight back.

Abi Hadley is a fugitive. Her brother Luke, a prisoner. Both will discover that in the darkest places, the human spirit shines brightest.

While amid his family’s intrigues, Silyen Jardine dreams of lost powers from an earlier age. As blood runs in the streets of London, they will all discover whether love and courage can ever be stronger than tyranny.

How do you choose when you can’t save everyone…?

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for previous book(s) in the series.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“The world was cruller than she had ever imagined when she submitted her family’s slaveday applications to the Estates Office nearly a year ago. Discovering the truth of it had cost Abi, and those she loved, so much.
Luke had to be rescued. And Abi would make Heir Meilyr of Highwithel help.”

At the end of Gilded Cage the Hadleys were being torn apart. While their parents travelled to Millmoor to complete their slavedays and Daisy stayed at Kyneston under the control of the Jardines, Abi set off after her brother. She travels to Meilyr Tresco, or Doc Jackson as Luke knew him in Millmoor, hoping the once-powerful Equal will help save her brother from Crovan. Together with Meilyr and Bodina Abi finds herself continuing the work Luke started in Millmoor, bringing the rebellion alive in the heart of London.

When Luke arrives at Eilean Dochais instead of the punishment he has feared for so long he finds himself in a place much darker than he could have ever imagined. Crovan has been given special instructions when it comes to Luke’s punishment. Luke struggles to keep hold of his memories as Crovan takes bits and pieces away from him, and he struggles with knowing who he can trust in a place where everyone has been Condemned for a horrible, unspeakable crime.

“And you think you commoners are, therefore, morally superior to the Equals.”
This question was less straightforward, but: “Yes, I would say so. Normal people aren’t perfect. We do terrible things. But you Equals don’t even seem to realise how monstrous the things you do are.”

With Winterbourne Zelston dead Whittam Jardine has now taken over control of Britain, and the changes he plans to make cast a shadow of the future of people like Luke and Abi. Whittam is cracking down on the unrest in the slavetowns and he plans to bring back archaic punishments like the Blood Fair. As Abi tries to bring about change in England while still holding out hope of finding someone who can rescue her brother the Equals start targeting their small rebellion, and if caught Abi faces a fate much worse than Luke’s.

It is impossible to sum up this book in just a few short paragraphs. Tarnished City was a highly anticipated release for me and it ended up completely blowing my expectations out of the water. This book was incredible. Tarnished City takes a much darker turn than I could have ever expected and I found myself scared for all the characters I’d come to know and love. No one was safe, at any moment the rug could be pulled out from under their feet. There were so many twists and turns I couldn’t have even attempted to predict where the story would go next. Basically I was hooked, and now the third book in the series, Bright Ruin, is my most anticipated release for 2018.

…The Characters

“Luke had imagined various scenarios awaiting within the halls of Eilean Dochais. A leash and obedience classes, perhaps. Maybe a dungeon. Certainly a cell. But never this.”

Luke is still my favourite character in this series. After he was used to kill Winterbourne Zelston at the end of Gilded Cage Luke has been Condemned and sent to Scotland under the ‘care’ of Crovan, and he’s terrified. He’s seen what happened to the Condemned, what Crovan is capable of, but when he arrives at Eilean Dochais he realises how futile escape actually is. Despite what happens in Crovan’s estate, despite the actions of the other Condemned, Luke keeps a tight hold on his humanity and his goodness, even  when he learns the truth behind some of the other Condemned’s actions, even when he can no longer trust his own memories, he holds onto his beliefs.

“Abi wasn’t sure why that mattered so much, but it did. As long as commoners kept looking to Equals to change things for the, then not was really, truly going to alter, was it?”

Abi was a character I wasn’t a massive fan of in the first book, mainly because I couldn’t get behind her relationship with Jenner. That all changed in Tarnished City. With Luke Condemned Abi slips away on the journey to Millmoor, determined to rescue her little brother in a way she couldn’t when he was sent to Millmoor alone at the beginning of Gilded Cage. Without her parents, without Jenner, and without any goal other than saving her brother Abi starts seeing a different side to things, seeing what drove Luke to do what he did rebelling in Millmoor. Abi is very similar to Luke, and in this book you started seeing those similarities shine through.

The family bond the Hadleys have is a strong one. Abi is willing to risk everything, her whole future, to save her brother. Even when she is told time and time again by Meilyr, by Bodina, by Jenner how hard it is going to be she never gives up pushing for someone to help her free Luke from Crovan. We don’t see much of their parents, or too much of Daisy, in this book with Tarnished City largely revolving around Abi and Luke’s journeys.

“These days there was nothing innocent about his little brother’s talent for mayhem. Silyen had instigated Zelston’s abolition Proposal. And look how that had turned out: overwhelming defeat, Zelston dead, and Father back in the Chancellor’s Chair.”

Another family dynamic I loved reading more about was the Jardines. They are not close, but it was interesting seeing the different relationships play out between them. Whittam Jardine has complete control over his heir Gavar, but that control seems to fray as Gavar’s wedding to Bouda approaches and as Whittam puts plans in place that affect Gavar’s daughter. Meanwhile Jenner struggles to find his place among his family as an Unskilled Equal and Silyen’s plans surrounding both Jenner and Gavar come to light more in this book.

Silyen was by far my favourite of the Jardine family. I have no idea what’s going on in his head, what his plans for Luke are or what his plans for his family are but he seems to be on the edge of every part of this story, watching as his plans fall into place. I don’t know what side he’s on or even what outcome he wants to see but discovering his motives, hopefully in the next book, is sure to be an epic reveal.

…The Setting

“The truth was, everyone in Britain wore a collar they couldn’t see. Millions of people, unquestionably obeying the Equals. Slaving for ten years in appalling conditions. Subject to rulers they couldn’t choose or criticize. Confined to a country they couldn’t leave until their days were done. And accepting it all as normal.
Better to wear a collar you could see. That way you never forgot.”

The first book was all about setting up the world; in Gilded Cage we delved into the idea of the slavedays, the imbalance of power between the Equals and everyone else. We learnt about the politics that kept the Equal families fighting over power, and the despair in slavetowns like Millmoor where the majority lived out their slavedays. Tarnished City takes everything that was set up in Gilded Cage and runs with it. In this book we start seeing the rebellions and unrest in all the slavetowns, not just Millmoor but Bore and Exton, we start seeing glimpses at what the future of the Equals will be with Whittam Jardine in control, and we get a new perspective over the Condemned through Luke’s eyes. Tarnished City is a book that twists the rules of the world Gilded Cage set up, it isn’t afraid to change everything we as readers thought we knew to move the story forwards into darker and far more dangerous places.

I could talk for ages about this book, and given the chance I will. All I can say that I haven’t already is that if the Dark Gifts series sounds like it would interest you, even if you’re not normally a fan of dystopian novels, then definitely check it out. This is quickly becoming an all-time favourite series of mine, and considering how I normally feel about the dystopian genre that’s really saying something.

Tarnished City is a dark sequel; with more action, more danger, and an ending that has left me desperate for the next book in the series.

What did you think of Tarnished City? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.


22 thoughts on “ARC Review: Tarnished City

  1. Absolutely love the idea of a sequel getting much more darker and that uses its predecessors as a setup for bigger things to come. Feels like it was just yesterday that Gilded Cage had come out and had me wondering about its premise and the whole slave-related ideas. Pretty nice to see the next book is a highly anticipated book of yours. Great review as always! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. God this one really amps up the darkness and the tension and everything. Honestly I was hooked on this story and couldn’t read it fast enough. Gilded Cage is an incredible series, and I really can’t wait to see where the third book takes it. It’s an interesting concept and overall just really incredibly written.
      Thanks Lashaan! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The sequel is amazing, and it’s not that long until Tarnished City is released. 🙂
      I’ll keep my fingers crossed your ARC request is approved. I’m sure you’ll love this book Angela, you’ll definitely have to let me know what you do think of it. I need more people to talk to about what happened in this book! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Had to skim through this one, too LOL. Still need to read the first book. But your reviews are really making me want to start reading this series. I’m in need of a really god dystopian. I have a feeling this series might be the one for me, too 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh you definitely need to read the first book of this series Azia, it’s incredible and I don’t normally recommend dystopian books. If you’re looking for a good dystopian series then this is definitely the one for you. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. 🙂


  3. I haven’t read the first book so I mostly skimmed the review in case of spoilers, but ahhh I’m so glad to see you enjoyed this sequel! I’m not much of a fan of dystopian either, so it says a lot that you enjoyed this one so much. Definitely need to start this series sometime! Lovely review. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely read the first book Analee, this is such an incredible series and I need more people to talk to about what happened in this book and the first. 🙂
      I guess there are always exceptions to the rules and for me this series is an exception to the ‘I’m not a fan of dystopians’ rule. 🙂
      Thanks so much! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh that is lucky. I got an ARC of Gilded Cage so I read it before it was released but then I had the unbearable wait after the cliffhanger ending for the second book.
        Now I’ve got the same with the wait until the third book! 😀


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.