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Book Review: City of Nightmares (City of Nightmares, #1) by Rebecca Shaeffer

Release Date: 10 January 2023 (23 February 2023 UK)

Rating: 2.5/5

Book Box: FairyLoot YA February 2023

Synopsis: 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.



Very glad I got the opportunity to listen to this on loan from my local library before renewing my FairyLoot YA sub for February 2023. It's not an awful book; I found it generally entertaining, but I feel I did have to get past quite a few things before settling into it. Basically, City of Nightmares is a run-of-the mill paranormal fantasy with werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural creatures that exist because of nightmares. Nightmares, in this book, transform normal people into what they fear the most. Some people fear vampires and werewolves, which is why they turn into them. Some people turn into their worst nightmares and can continue to exist and function in society; but some cannot, which is the case with our main character’s sister, who transformed into a gigantic spider and ate her father and several other people. It has no romance, which is not a problem for me, but I know some folks like romance in their books, which is why I mention it. Additionally, the story is told in first person POV, and the main character makes several digs at different types of people, which I found unappealing.

The main character, Ness, narrates the book in first person, and many of the musings in her brain while telling the story were not flattering to certain groups of people. I know it's fiction, but I did not appreciate some of them, including one statement in which older men in relationships with younger women are "predatory" and basically disgusting. While that stood out the most to me, it is not the only disparaging remark—there are many.

The main character, Ness, is also working though a lot of very serious trauma with very adult consequences. From the synopsis, readers know going into the story that Ness was a witness of sorts when her sister turned into a giant spider and killed her father. The description for this event is quite vividly gruesome. In fact, the whole book is pretty gruesome. It is a horror book, which is not a surprise, but I don’t feel this one is appropriate to market to a YA audience. It deals with very adult content, contains very descriptive horror elements, and none of the characters are YA or dealing with YA issues. It really should be an adult book, or NA at the very least. It doesn’t contain any explicit sexual situations, so that’s a plus, as I’m not a fan of sexual situations in YA books.

If you’re okay with stuff I mentioned in my review, you’ll be alright with this book in your FairyLoot February 2023 YA box (if you’re getting it). I think I will be skipping this one. I just didn’t vibe with the book enough to want to own a copy, even if it will be signed with spiffy edges.

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