Review: Tarnished City by Vic James

Tarnished City by Vic James is the second book in the Dark Gifts series. Set in modern day Britain, this dystopian fantasy is the story of an underdog. Parliament is run by a technocratic society where magic is power. Supporting this society is the labor of the Unskilled, or magicless lower classes. Every Unskilled person must do ten years of hard labor, similar to indentured service. Luke and his sister Abi are forced to fight back though when Luke is imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit.

Full disclosure: I did not read the first book, and so wish I had after putting this story down. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what was going on, there was enough context that I could piece together the Major Parts, but because the book was just so well written. I loved the characters and their complexity, the humanness that exuded from them. There was incredible development through the book, and relationships were a web of complicated threads. Vic James wrote in a way that the story flowed, and I was riveted by what was unfolding.

The magic in this book wasn’t over the top, rather I liked the blend of reality with fantasy so that it is easy to imagine such a world today.  James reveals a darker side to human nature through this book, reminding us how power can corrupt and make people do despicable things. There were parts of the book I cringed, but despite myself I could not put the book down. The novel was a searing demand to be read, the social injustices too real to be ignored. Poverty and racism are issues I hold close to my heart, and James hit home the desperation and frustration people living under such conditions must feel.


This book is not a feel good fairy story, but one that breathes fire and roars. A fantastic novel, it will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games and Red Rising. 5 out of 5 stars for me, a first this year.

*Thank you to Net Galley and the author for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions stated here are my own


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