Thursday 8 December 2022

CITY OF NIGHTMARES by Rebecca Schaeffer

Face your fear . . . or become your nightmare.

Ever since her sister became a man-eating spider and slaughtered her way through town, nineteen-year-old Ness has been terrified - terrified of some other Nightmare murdering her, and terrified of ending up like her sister. Because in Newham, the city that never sleeps, dreaming means waking up as your worst fear.

Whether that means becoming a Nightmare that's monstrous only in appearance, or transforming into a twisted, unrecognizable creature that terrorizes the city, no one is safe. Ness will do anything to avoid becoming another victim, even if that means lying low among the Friends of the Restful Soul, a questionable organization that may or may not be a cult.

But being a member of this maybe-cult has a price. In order to prove herself, Ness cons her way into what's supposed to be a simple job for the organization - only for it to blow up in her face. Literally. Tangled up in the aftermath of an explosive assassination, now Ness and the only other survivor - a Nightmare boy who Ness suspects is planning to eat her - must find their way back to Newham and uncover the sinister truth behind the attack, even as the horrors of her past loom ominously near.

When I spotted this book in the Hachette catalogue, I was intriguing by the concept and dazzled by the striking cover. Besides, I'm a sucker for stories featuring dark cities with corrupt citizens and monsters.

Ness lives in Newham, a dangerous city where nightmares roam the streets after distorting those who dare to dream while asleep. She's a member of the Friends of the Restful Soul cult and finds sanctuary within its walls, as well as the unconditional protection her best friend offers. But while doing a delivery on a luxury boat, it explodes and she suddenly finds herself involved with a guy who is exactly what she tries to avoid...

Wow! I absolutely loved this unique and darkly imagined cityscape, where danger lurks around every corner and the humans are as bad as the nightmares they're so afraid of.

Let me start with the intricate worldbuilding that introduces a world where everyone's nightmares can come to life through them. Warping, morphing and changing average people into giant bugs, dragons, reptiles, vampires, and anything else that haunts their dreams. There's even an organisation that takes out these pests.

There are also plenty of crooked cops and many scam artists. This is not a nice place to live, yet I enjoyed every exciting minute I spent in Newham and would definitely go back. Definitely.

Ness is our cowardly narrator who is scared of everything and everyone, because of what happened to her sister. She should be annoying and frustrating, but instead her paranoia and anxiety come across as very real. Her vulnerability and attitude are totally relatable in a city where nightmares come to life.

I thought she was as awesome as Cy and Priya.

City of Nightmares is as whimsical as it is terrifying. The main characters are endearing, interesting, their personal growth is amazing, and everything evolves so naturally that you can't help but be swept away by the monstrous things threatening this unstable world. Not to mention that there are twists and turns every step of the way.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this awesome book. 🙂

City of Nightmares, January 2023, ISBN 9781399712118, Gollancz

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