Review of City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace — though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.
But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

I went into City in the Middle of the Night with great expectations. I had seen it widely promoted on its release and the premise sounded amazing. Straight off, this is a good book I just felt that it missed out being great. The world building was exceptional, creative and unique and the characters diverse in background and life.

The toxic friendship between Sophie and Bianca was hard to read at times but it was exceptionally well done. Bianca is immensely manipulative and I found her personally, to be the real villain of the piece. It felt though, that many of the relationships were fractious; a product of the infighting on the mother ship combined with the closed off and insular nature of the cities I suppose. There is a real sense that emotions are festering, yet in a society where it seems there is no time or allowance for feelings – it’s little wonder that elements of the story felt like a ticking time bomb. There was balance though,as Sophie and Rose’s relationship felt like the entire opposite I really enjoyed the trust building between them, the acceptance and desire for inclusion on both sides.

I did feel that as a story it didn’t really feel confident in itself, like the author had all these amazing ideas and people and worlds, but just could quite get it to come together on the page the way it did in her mind. I didn’t know where it was pitched either, Sophie appears very much a YA protagonist but this was in no way a YA book. Initially, I struggled to get into the story as the opening chapters had a lot going on with little context, which whilst initially confusing it did all fall into place as things moved on. The prose is very lyrical and and when I got into it’s flow, I suddenly found it to be a much easier read. Sadly though I felt it plateaued early on, never really reaching the heights it could and whilst I’m usually a fan of open endings, this just felt like the end of a chapter rather than the story.

I can, however, appreciate the skill of the writing and the wonderous world with so many complex layers but it didn’t wow me the way I wished it would have.



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