Tara Sim’s The City of Dusk is a broad, dark tale set in a fanciful realm with an energetic, youthful cast.
The City of Dusk lends itself well as an allegory for the decline of modern civilization. Sims does this by setting the story at the tail end of a decadent city’s long fall from grace. This theme permeates the story. The world is dying, and no one seems interested in doing more than maintaining their grasp of whatever power and influence remain. Resources are disappearing. Long-held traditions are a sham, continued only for tradition’s sake. The useless king doesn’t seem interested or even capable of ruling. It was hard not to read this and think of our world in comparison.
Sims dresses this world with many things that seem or sound familiar. Doing so creates several anachronisms and some head-scratching moments. But it also gives the world a lived-in feel. I’d guess that Sims saved the most effort for an intriguing and well-developed magic system and the legacies supporting it.
Despite being pitched as a new adult fantasy, Sim’s young adult writing experience is evident. A reader should be forgiven for thinking the characters were all in their teens. And there are many characters, with the POV spread evenly throughout a half-dozen or more perspectives.
The City of Dusk clearly aspires to be more than it is. Its length alone could qualify the tale as epic. But readers looking for a repeat of Shadow and Bone would enjoy it.
This book contains mentions of physical and mental abuse, loss of family members, addiction, cannibalism, state violence, racism and xenophobia, and detailed descriptions of war, violence, and death.