Review: Diamond City – Francesca Flores
by Francesca Flores
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Good things don't happen to girls who come from nothing...unless they risk everything.
Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.
Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.
DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.
To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn't want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.
Full of action, romance and dark magic, book one of Francesca Flores' breathtaking fantasy duology will leave readers eager for more!
Content warnings: View Spoiler »drug use (past and on page), gaslighting, death of parents (described on page), general fantasy and gun violence « Hide Spoiler
Honestly, I think the cover does a bit of a disservice to the book. It suggest that it’s more urban fantasy/Ocean’s 11-ish than the more straight-up fantasy it is.
“Congratulations, Aina. You’re the best Blade in Kosín, and when I watch you cut holes in people, I think I hear angels singing.”
After the murder of her parents, Aina’s survived by becoming one of the best assassins in Kosín. Driven to prove herself to the boss of their tradehouse, Kohl, who’s trained her personally, she’s eager to take on the latest assignment – killing a Steel, one of the business magnates who runs the city. An assassination gone wrong gutters all her dreams, however, and her only hope at reclaiming her place is by finishing the job, even if it means tricking her target’s younger brother into helping her. Nothing goes as planned, however, and she’s forced to confront her assumptions about herself, her friends, and her life.
“All these years, I’ve been saying I’m not afraid anymore, but I still am. I say that I know how to defend myself and that I’ll be safe, but that’s not actually doing anything about the terrible things going on here. That’s hiding, and letting it all happen because it’s too frightening to try to stop it. But now I want to end the things that scare me.”
It’s hard not to compare this book to other YA fantasy heists, like Six of Crows, though I think the comparison is a little faulty. The book is told solely from Aina’s point of view, and while she does assemble a team, the focus is more on her journey, on finding a purpose for herself, whether she’s an invincible Blade or a vulnerable street girl. I absolutely loved Aina, flaws and all, and it hurt so much to see how she was forced to grow and change over the course of the book. I liked that, at her core, she had good intentions, even if the way she went about them was often completely wrong. I thought her motivations – getting back in Kohl’s good graces, avoiding ending up back on the streets – were strong and I really understood why she made the choices she did. Aina’s bi, though her love “interests,” though they never really get beyond brushing limbs at the most, are all male in the book. While I’m a big romance fan, I’m not so much a fan of love triangles, and though I recognize it was perfectly reasonable for Aina to be confused and have feelings for multiple people, it’s a pet peeve for me.
“It’s easy to get anyone to do something if you put enough money in front of them.”
She tilted her head to the side. “Must be nice to buy solutions to your problems.”
“Must be nice to threaten your problems,” Ryuu countered with a raised eyebrow.”
The snappy dialog really stood out for me, as did the side characters. I especially loved Teo, Aina’s gunslinger friend. Ryuu, the young Steel who ends up bankrolling Aina’s mission to “save” his brother, was also fun, though at times he felt a bit preachy. My main issue was with the flashbacks. The setting would change between one paragraph to the next without warning, sometimes going back to the previous day or even years ago, and each time it happened it was confusing and completely jarred me out of the narrative.
While this is obviously the first in the series, there’s a satisfying closure to the main plot. Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 due to the flashbacks. I’m interested enough in Aina’s story – I want to see what she’ll do now that she has a real mission! – that I’ll probably pick up the next book. Recommended for anyone looking for a kickass heroine who learns to break the system and finds a family in the process!