A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.
As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t—the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.
I'm going to go against the grain here and give this book 3 stars. In this case, 3 stars means that I loved some parts, didn't like other parts, but I liked the book overall. It wasn't that the book was bland or middling, but that I had some issues with it.
I'll start off with what I liked. 5 stars for sure for world-building here. Sarah Fine created a uniquely imaginative world that happened to make total sense. It was creepy, dark, and fabulously conceptualized. Her concept of the afterlife for suicide victims, the Shadowlands, was perfect. By far, the world was my favorite part of the book. I loved the concept of the Mazikin. Just brilliant, honestly. This book had some of the best world-building that I've ever seen in young adult paranormal.
Now for the parts that I had issues with. I've said it once and I'll say it again, audiobooks change the entire reading experience. So much is riding on the narrator and their interpretation of the characters. I loved when this narrator voiced Lela. She did a very nice job conveying Lela's emotions and fears. However, once the narrator attempted to narrate for Malachi, I was not a fan. First of all, Malachi sounded distinctly feminine, which really lessened his appeal greatly. He is supposed to be a very strong, macho Middle-Eastern man and the narrator sort of made it sound like a white girl doing a mock Arab accent (not cool). The narrator also sounded almost identical with her Middle Eastern accent for Malachi and her Hispanic accent for Anna. It was distracting for me and lead me to focus on the flaws of the characters.
I didn't love how Malachi and Lela were too perfect. They were both self-sacrificing to the point of incredulity. My least favorite character was Nadia, mostly because I just couldn't see why Lela would go to so much trouble for a girl who made no impact on me. I get why Lela was supposed to care about Nadia, I just didn't care about her and I wanted to shake Lela for giving up so much for her. I wanted to shout, "Nadia isn't worth it!"
Despite my issues, I think I will certainly move on to the next in the series. The world has too much potential for me to quit now. Perhaps in ebook form I'll like the story even more.
Thanks for reading my review, friends!