Title: Diamond City
Author: Francesca Flores
Series: Diamond City, #2
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 28th 2020
**This review is based on the bound manuscript of the novel received through a giveaway from the author, which does not influence my review**
- Aina Solís – Aina was left orphaned at a young age, but grew up under the tutelage of one of her city’s most notorious gang leaders, the Blood King. She has risen through the ranks as a skilled assassin, but has high hopes of one day being his equal. Her personal arc has her working out her complicated feelings for boss/mentor, reevaluating her worldview when it comes to the classes, and prioritizing her own needs over any potential romance.
- World-building – I really like the world Francesca Flores has built. It addresses classism, includes immigration, and deals with religious persecution in a really interesting setting. Kosin underwent a civil war years ago and many people, including Aina, lost their family. When the war ended, the lower class became even more powerless as the upper class, known as Steels, profited heavily from industrialization, but left places like the Stacks, overpoliced and subject to the laws of its gangs. There is also a magical element to the story involving diamonds, blood magic, and the worship of two goddesses known as the Mothers which I found really interesting.
- Teo – Aina isn’t the type of person who makes friends easily, but she found a kindred spirit in the mercenary Teo. He’s charming and though he lacks Aina’s efficiency, is still a very skilled killer. He, like Aina, has been forced into the life as a mercenary because people like them do not get the same opportunities as Steels. He’s driven by the love he has for his mother, whom he is desperate to provide medicine for. His friendship with Aina was my favorite in the novel. There’s is mutual respect and both are more vulnerable with the other than they are with other people.
- Ryuu – Ryuu is first introduced as a spoiled, out of touch upper class Steel, but he has a lot more layers. Unlike those in power, he does not have the same kind of disdain for those who worship the Mothers. He is more likely to help than to turn someone over for practicing their religion. His tenuous alliance with Aina opens both of their eyes to each other’s circumstances and they discover they have more in common than either initially believed.
- Too many potential love interests – I honestly didn’t know where to invest myself in emotionally when it came to all of Aina’s potential love interests. I wish the author had chosen one or even two, but there were three characters that Aina expressed interest in at one time or another. While I don’t fault a girl for being interested in multiple parties, it felt more like the author couldn’t decide who she wanted readers to root for. I will say that I did like how open Aina is in the end and how she wants to prioritize herself first.
- Stilted writing – Sometimes with debuts you come across some awkwardly worded dialogue or prose. For the most part this doesn’t bother me as I understand new writers are still finding their writing style. This is a bound manuscript review so these awkward instances may have been edited, but it definitely had me pausing and reflecting on how strange certain things were worded while reading.
Francesca Flores delivers a solid fantasy debut with Diamond City. With an impressive setting and an interesting set of characters, I will be keeping my eye out for the sequel.
★ ★ ★