The City of the Broken by Ceri Benyon

CITY
The City of the Broken by Ceri Benyon
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (202 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Seren Loneheart falls in love for the very first time with a boy who has a dark secret. She soon discovers he is a prince who rules over The City of the Broken, which has a population of heartbroken and outcast people. He informs her that he wants her to become a citizen of his city as he believes her to be lonely and unhappy ,but much to Seren’s delight he also wants to be her boyfriend as well.

The pair embark on a dark fairytale romance that results in Seren finding happiness for the first time in her life, but Calix informs her that she needs to remain ‘broken’ to be his girlfriend.

Can these young lovers survive all this turmoil that threatens both their relationship and Calix’s crown? Will Seren succeed in healing Calix’s heart and ending his determination to remain unhappy for the sake of duty?

Love is powerful, but it can’t fix everything. So why does Seren still feel obligated to change herself to better suit her boyfriend’s needs?

A good fantasy novel says as much about the real world as it does about the ones that only exist between its pages, The City of the Broken reminded me of all of the incredible men and women I’ve known who’ve risen above terrible experiences. Purposefully gathering together an entire city filled with broken people is an intriguing concept, and as soon as I read the blurb I knew I had to find out what happens next.

When a character experienced something scary or new in this universe, the text told me what they were feeling instead of allowing their body language or dialogue to subtly reveal their emotions. This happened so often that I had trouble connecting to Seren in particular when even more surprising things popped up in their lives because I never quite felt like I got to know her as a unique individual.

I have a lot of sympathy for Seren. She is a vulnerable soul who so desperately wants to be loved that she’s willing to accept it from anyone who will give it to her. I would have loved to have more background information on her. It seemed odd to me that a teenage girl could spend so much time away from her home in this universe without anyone noticing she was missing. The handful of clues that were provided about her life were interesting, though, and helped to explain her low self-esteem and as well as her lack of adult supervision if my theory about what they are hinting at is correct.

There were many grammar and punctuation errors in this story. Some sentences didn’t have any punctuation marks at all. This made it difficult to figure out where one idea or description ended and the next one began. The author’s heavy use of sentence fragments was also confusing.

Strong pacing kept me engaged in the plot from beginning to end. It begins with Seren and Calix’s first meeting, so everything I learned about these characters happened at the same time that everything else was going on. Even though this was a full-length work, it felt like a novella in certain ways due to how quickly the main conflicts show up. Moving everything along so quickly was a good choice!

By far my biggest concern about this book, though, is how the relationship between Calix and Seren develops. Calix isolates her from other people, pushes her to get serious with him right away, and manipulates her when she attempts to make her own decisions. These can all be signs of an abusive relationship, so it was surprising to see the text treat them as romantic gestures. I understand why Seren would initially be wooed by his attention, but I was disappointed by the fact that no one acknowledged his inappropriate expectations of her.

I did enjoy the descriptions of Calix’s city. They often felt like they came from a gritty fairy tale that was never sanitized by The Brothers Grimm. The best scenes are the ones that describe all of the rooms in his castle, especially the black ballroom. It sounded like it would be a hauntingly beautiful place to see in person.

Despite its flaws, The City of the Broken was an interesting look at how our society treats people who aren’t easy to love. I’d recommend it as a cautionary tale to mature teens who are prepared for its occasionally disturbing content.

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