Review: Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

Monday, November 18, 2013

Title: Mystic City
Author: Theo Lawrence
Genre: young adult, retellings
Series: Mystic City #1
Pages: 416
Published: October 9 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5

Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. 

Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.

Mystic City tries. It really does. Despite pacing issues, a treacly sweet romance (full of instalove!), it really does want to be an inventive and bleak Romeo and Juliet retelling. was.... pretty readable. I wouldn't go so far to say it was good, but I did finish it within a few hours of beginning.

The thing is, and what I kept thinking as I read --- do we need a Romeo and Juliet retelling, even one mixed with fun magic and technology and dystopia elements? Is it too much? Does it work? And the answer really is no. Besides being both the most overrated and least understood (by today's teens, anyway) of Shakespeare's play, Romeo & Juliet has been done so many times it's grown tedious. Lawrence attempts to breathe new life into the beaten horse that is the tale of two overwrought teenagers in "love", but it doesn't hold water.

There are countless books, movies (so many in fact, we can rank the best 10), even zombie adaptations of this silly plotline. What did Romeo know of real love? What Juliet know of being in a real, adult relationship? Nothing -- and neither does Mystic City's Hunter and Aria. Their relationship is baseless and frivolous. His male rival for her affections -- in name if not in actuality -- is as one-note and shallowly-drawn as well. I can't root for two teens who hardly know themselves and much less each other to be together. I can't care about an antagonist who is predictable and boring -- even to root against him. If my only choice is apathy, something has gone wrong. Give me some other source of drama. Focus on the political feud and less on hormones.

Some aspects of the story could use tightening but overall, I did have fun with Mystic City in spite of myself. I liked the mix of magic and technology. I am not to clear on how it all works, exactly, but I like the ideas and how Lawrence incorporated them into his story and how his characters use them together. There are some spots where the book reminded me of X-Men a bit and I wanted more of that. The writing is serviceable if nondescript, but Lawrence's style is suited to his chosen genre.

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