As part of this blog tour, I had the opportunity to ask the author, Sarah Rees Brennan, one question. Being that I love New York City, I was curious to her inspiration in setting this A Tale of Two Cities magical retelling in the Big Apple.
SARAH: I am of the firm belief that magic is like chocolate sauce or sprinkles with ice-cream—sure, ice-cream is great without it, but magic can only make a story better.
Magic stands in for a lot of things—social power, love, weakness.
In many ways this book is a love letter to New York city, the first city I lived in as an adult—the first time I lived away from home in Ireland. New York was like adulthood to me, was glittering and alluring and terrifying and longed-for, and so of course it is the place I chose to write about a society changing. Talking about a city you love is talking about yourself: the city is your divided heart.
In New York, where the city is defined by the split of the luxurious Light half and the seedier Dark half, Lucie Manette lives in both worlds. Born in the Dark side, she has found herself enjoying the opulence of the Light half with her wealthy and loving boyfriend Ethan. However, their lives get turned upside down when a dark secret is revealed and the cities are on the brink of a violent revolution.
A story about a girl with a good guy and a bad boy in her life, in the midst of civil unrest in a city with a thickening plot brewing. Brennan succeeds in pairing up the familiar with the unpredictable, with moments where I found myself seeing what was inevitably coming but balanced out with shocking scenes as well. A lot of focus was on the main characters, for obvious reasons, but I had hoped there would also be a bit more development of some of the supporting characters. Understanding that there’s a lot of story to get through within one book, but at times I felt it hard to keep track of who was who, especially in the Dark city. And while I felt the dialogue between the main characters were often a bit too saccharine for me, the underlying message of the revolution was a strong one. The idea of what exactly people are fighting for and not knowing who to trust, with deceit around every corner, made for an interesting narrative to follow.
For me, in a way, the novel read like a piece of classical music. The story begins with a bang of action, then drops to a quieter gradual build of the plot, increasingly getting louder and louder before it reaches the finale. That being said, I think the slow build may give pause to some readers and, admittedly, it almost lost me as well. However, continuing with it though, the story picks up and provides an action-packed end, as Tell the Wind and Fire was penned as a standalone novel.
I admittedly am not familiar with the original Charles Dickens classic that this novel is based off of and I feel that some knowledge of the former may help a bit to further appreciate the latter, but it’s not necessarily mandatory. This prior info seems most relevant in understanding the characters and their dynamics, however I did enjoy the revolutionary plot without knowing anything about A Tale of Two Cities. This novel (with the gorgeous cover) is great for fans of a bit of magic in a dystopian/contemporary world.