Diamond City by Francesca Flores is a dazzling debut filled with found families, learning to overcome toxic relationships, and one very stabby main character. And while all of that is good, there are parts of the story that felt too flat for this to be an all out hit for me.
Rating: 4 Stars
An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. Thank you to Wednesday Books for giving me the opportunity to read this one early.
Trigger warnings are located at the end of the review.
Author: Francesca Flores
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Synopsis: 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!
The synopsis of the book gives you very little information to work with going into the story. We know Aina Solís is an orphaned assassin, her boss is brutal, there is dark magic mixed in, and there is going to be a bit of murder. The story is much more complex than I was anticipating and I loved that, but I feel like some of the religious and political plots took away from time to develop the machinations of the story.
Flores’ writing style took some getting used to. She leans a little heavy on the telling instead of showing and this is definitely not an overly descriptive book. I felt she masterfully wove the past in with the present narrative, though there were moments of repeating information, especially when it came to talking about the magic/religion. The pace is very quick and then slow, but you always want to keep going back for what happens next. Flores has a style that you can tell will continue to grow and improve over her writing career.
Aina is a strong, confident character with questionable morals and a rocky past (and bi? Maybe? I want more info on this in future books). She struggles with the death of her family, drug addiction, and the toxic relationship with her boss. We have to take it on her own thoughts that she is the best assassin in Kosín, because we never really get to see it. What we get to see is the biggest job of her life falling apart and her desperate attempts to fix it. Her struggle with the toxic relationship with her boss is hard because no one wants to see anyone in this situation, but Flores handles it well and never glorifies it or makes it seem right. Aina might not be the best role model, but she will resonate with people in their own ways.
The side characters may be a little bit trope-y for some, but they were all delightful to read. There is Teo, an assassin who is taking care of his mother while harboring feelings for our sassy main character (best character in the book, IMHO). Ryuu, a rich boy with hidden depths and secret talents. Tannis, Aina’s competition and angry girl extraordinaire. Kohl, the brutal criminal mastermind and all around not good guy. All are well built characters to me, but some may find them lacking.
The world of Kosín is well realized and almost a character on its own. There is a wonderful balance of fantasy and industry. Speaking of magic: it’s not a dark magic like the synopsis would have you believe. It is blood magic, but it is used in good ways. The way the magic is viewed by the industrialist in the world is what’s dark. There is definitely something to be said at how this mirrors the way many religions are viewed in this day and age.
Diamond City is an enjoyable fantasy debut novel that is just a bit rough around the edges. If given a chance, you will get an intriguing first book in a duology that promises a second book full of reckoning and revenge.
Trigger Warnings: physically and emotionally abusive relationships, death of parents and parental figures (on and off page), drug addiction. This is not a complete list as I cannot predict what will trigger any given person.