Book Title: City of Nightmares
Author: Rebecca Schaeffer
Release Date: January 10, 2023
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Gotham meets Strange the Dreamer in this thrilling young adult fantasy about a cowardly girl who finds herself at the center of a criminal syndicate conspiracy, in a city where crooked politicians and sinister cults reign and dreaming means waking up as your worst nightmare.
Ever since her sister became a man-eating spider and slaughtered her way through town, nineteen-year-old Ness has been terrified—terrified of some other Nightmare murdering her, and terrified of ending up like her sister. Because in Newham, the city that never sleeps, dreaming means waking up as your worst fear.
Whether that means becoming a Nightmare that’s monstrous only in appearance, to transforming into a twisted, unrecognizable creature that terrorizes the city, no one is safe. Ness will do anything to avoid becoming another victim, even if that means lying low among the Friends of the Restful Soul, a questionable organization that may or may not be a cult.
But being a member of maybe-cult has a price. In order to prove herself, Ness cons her way into what’s supposed to be a simple job for the organization—only for it to blow up in her face. Literally. Tangled up in the aftermath of an explosive assassination, now Ness and the only other survivor—a Nightmare boy who Ness suspects is planning to eat her—must find their way back to Newham and uncover the sinister truth behind the attack, even as the horrors of her past loom ominously near.
City of Nightmares was a fast-paced, thrilling read that kept me constantly guessing. I thought the idea of nightmares coming to life after dreaming was such a cool concept, and one that was expertly explored. As someone who had a lot of nightmares as a kid, this book was both fascinating and kind of terrifying, because I’m pretty sure I even had a nightmare about my nightmares coming to life at one point!
This book begins quite unassuming. The reader follows Ness, a terrified girl who wants nothing more than to feel safe and secure. Unfortunately for Ness, safety is just an illusion in the corrupt and dark city of Newham, and she soon finds herself caught in a conspiracy that would see her dead. I really enjoyed how the book started almost quietly—introducing us to Newham and all its horrors, while still shielding us from some of the grimmer parts of the city. Gradually, though, and almost imperceptibly, the stakes were raised so high that it became impossible for us or for Ness to ignore. Each chapter increased the anticipation that little bit more, so skillfully I didn’t always notice until I felt suffocated by the suspense.
I was never quite sure where it was headed, but I always knew each piece of information being introduced was going to be important at some point, which it most certainly was. Aptly, the entire story felt like a spider weaving its web until the entire city of Newham and all of its plot points were trapped and connected by this web. Even though a lot of questions were answered, there’s still so much to be uncovered, and I already cannot wait until the next book comes out!
Something I especially enjoyed about City of Nightmares was the protagonist’s personality. Unlike many other MCs in YA fiction, Ness was terrified of almost everything, and very rarely willing to put herself on the line to face those fears. It was rather refreshing to see and set up some interesting plot points. Additionally, her personality made for an excellent character arc that was done believably. I enjoyed being in her thoughts, and I’m excited to see what adventures she gets up to in the sequel.
Another aspect to commend is the relationships. While there’s a hint of romance between Ness and Cy, most of the story is focused on friendship and building that foundation, which I love to see! Neither Ness nor Cy was in the position to begin a relationship, so I loved the fact it focused on developing their interactions as friends. Ness is also best friends with Priya, someone completely opposite in personality to Ness. Even so, they compliment each other well. Their friendship was already established before the book began, but that didn’t keep the author from exploring it further and expanding the dynamic.
From start to finish, City of Nightmares was a wild ride that constantly kept me on my toes. I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys paranormal or urban fantasy with a little bit of a spook factor.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
Check out my last blog post: Unseelie (ARC Review)