If you’ve been looking for a story about vampires, corruption, and nightmares, City of Nightmares is for you. This one was unpredictable and thrilling. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up being swept away. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Gotham meets Strange the Dreamer in this thrilling young adult fantasy about a cowardly girl who finds herself at the center of a criminal syndicate conspiracy, in a city where crooked politicians and sinister cults reign and dreaming means waking up as your worst 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, to 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 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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
City of Nightmares took a world building idea I loved and just developed it even more. Every page there was something more to intrigue me. Our nightmares which become real, our fears personified in ourselves? I still get shivers thinking about it. But Schaeffer takes this idea and makes it even more fascinating. Set in this corrupt underbelly of a city, plus Ness’ membership to this cult, there are so many disparate elements. And they just work so well together.
Ness is still reeling from the loss of her entire family, so when she stumbles across a deadly assassination, her whole life is about to change again. From the very beginning, I loved the supernatural lore of both the nightmares, but also of the vampires. It makes the world come into a clear focus. But I think what I loved was how action packed City of Nightmares felt. It’s one of those stories which left me finishing the last 20% in one sitting.
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Even more so, it’s a story which isn’t afraid to showcase the dangerous and the corrupt. The ways power, authority, and nightmares can change a person. Or not. At its core, City of Nightmares is about Ness and her PTSD and fears. How all we can do with a fear is choose how we react to it. To choose who we want to be. Fear can destroy, corrupt, or protect all in one instance. Sneakily, I also loved the idea of wondering if we’re all monsters. It certainly feels like we’re all monsters in the making. And if you wonder about that too, then crack open City of Nightmares. Find City of Nightmares on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org, & The Book Depository.