[Review] City of Villains by Esther Laure

★★★☆☆

fantasy | yound adult | mystery

Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior by day, but by night she’s an intern at the Monarch City police department. She watches with envy from behind a desk as detectives come and go, trying to contain the city’s growing crime rate. For years, tension has simmered between the city’s wealthy elite, and their plans to gentrify the decaying neighborhood called the Scar—once upon a time the epicenter of all things magic.

When the daughter of one of the city’s most powerful businessmen goes missing, Mary Elizabeth is thrilled when the Chief actually puts her on the case. But what begins as one missing person’s report soon multiplies, leading her down the rabbit hole of a city in turmoil. There she finds a girl with horns, a boyfriend with secrets, and what seems to be a sea monster lurking in a poison lake. As the mystery circles closer to home, Mary finds herself caught in the fight between those who once had magic, and those who will do anything to bring it back.

I’m having a few mixed feelings here.

I love Disney stories, especially if they are villain’s backstories about how or why they became evil. That’s what lured me into this book, even though it is totally different from their original tale. But I just love the villains enough to want more of them.

Our beloved, or not, villains are now teenagers living in the Scar. A city previously called Wonder, where fairies, wizard and what not used to live and have magic, before the Great Dead. Magic is no more and Legacy, used-to-be magic holders, are now looked down upon by Narrows, us humans, and their city is now getting filled with people that bully and oppress them. Normal underdog, “We will rise against them” type of story, dystopianish, I love that.

I’m not a huge fan of murder mysteries, as this originally seemed to be, but the mystery-solving part of it was pretty entertaining and I don’t have any complaints about it, it moved the story pretty well. There are few scenes, like fight or action scenes, where it felt more like Mary Elizabeth was telling us what she was doing or was going to do that felt very dragging.

It feels very predictable, the moment the real villain of this book appears it’s a dead giveaway and takes away from the enjoyment of the plot. They also give us the reason of his actions pretty much in the first half of the book. It becomes a search of How, instead of Who and Why, which I feel is essential on a mystery story. We also know who villain they are all going to become, and I feel like the cover was a little bit misleading by making me think Mary Elizabeth was going to be Maleficent (y’know… the shadow on the wall and all) and was confused at the beginning.

My favorite part was probably the characters, I loved seeing their Disney counterparts in them, and the game in their names to figure out who they were. We get more Peter Pan characters, I believe some Beauty and the Beast, there are also a lot of references to their characters you can have fun with if you look for them. Might read the rest of the series mostly to see more of this.

Might continue the series, second book comes out in 2022 so my interest might come back once I know more about what is going to happen or at least see the cover.

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