Book Review: TARNISHED CITY by Vic James

Title in white on black next to swinging bird cage
Genre: Dystopia
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes - second book in trilogy



Book cover for TARNISHED CITY: title

A corrupted city. A dark dream of power.

Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his mind. But as the Jardines tighten their grip on a turbulent Britain, brother and sister face a fight greater than their own.

New alliances and old feuds will remake the nation, leaving Abi and Luke questioning everything – and everyone – they know. And as Silyen Jardine hungers for the forgotten Skill of the legendary Wonder King, the country’s darkest hour approaches. Freedom and knowledge both come at a cost. So who will pay the price?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


TARNISHED CITY is a fun second instalment in this fantasy-leaning dystopia trilogy. We get to see and understand more parts of this uncomfortable vision of England that’s not quite our own. Through Silyen’s POV, the magic is delved into, and through his family’s, the political backstabbing is.

It’s so hard to tell who can be trusted as alliances shift, allies dies, and people reveal new loyalties. There were a few that were surprising – and one that felt completely out of the blue and not well set up, but generally it was fun not being able to guess who could be trusted.

Second books in series (particularly in trilogies, and even more so if it’s an author’s second published book) have a bit of a reputation for being fillers. Their purpose to get the characters from where they ended the first book to where they need to be for the third book.

TARNISHED CITY manages to mostly avoid feeling like this. On retrospection, it is plot quite filler-ish for the main characters, Luke and Abi. They don’t really achieve anything, running “interference” – stuff happens around them which they are mostly observers to, but they don’t make any real progress personally towards their goals of ending Equal rule or liberating/reuniting with each other. Instead, it’s the people around them and the other POVs who are really making progress and affecting the change in the world.

Despite being rather filler plot wise for the two leads, the book avoids feeling like a filler – and a lot of it is because there is progress being made elsewhere. It would have been nice if the leads were more deeply involved in that progress, but it helps keep the pacing and feeling like the world’s moved on.

The intermittent POVs from Bouda, Gavar, and Silyen felt less scattered this time. Perhaps it was because I was expecting them, or perhaps it was because the book was longer so it felt like there was more time to understand. Silyen is still impossible to understand what he ultimately wants – he’s clearly on no side but his own, but who he will side with eventually is impossible to know. Gavar is probably the most likeable of the three and Bouda, though utterly unlikeable and reprehensible, is the most interesting.

One book to go!

Read my reviews of other books by Vic James:

Dark Gifts (this series):

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