SPFBO Review: City of Crows by Alex Marks

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Hundreds of years in the future, the planet is all but uninhabitable and the majority of the population has been cryogenically frozen. One day, the massive generation ships will be complete and take humanity to newly discovered planets across the galaxy. Until then, the Watch makes sure everything runs smoothly.

Martin and his sister joined the Watch, a ten-year shift watching over the frozen population. Even though it’s his first chance to see the outside world after living underground, things aren’t quite like the stories he’s been told. The book’s tagline is a bit misleading though—there are crops, there are metal, and there are people, just not very many of them.

Things take a turn for the worse when Martin’s sister dies. However, she doesn’t stay gone. Martin begins seeing her ghost and is guided by a spiritual cat that only he can see. Together, these spiritual apparitions help him to solve the mystery of why his warehouse of frozen people is beginning to fail.

It took a little while for me to settle into this story. At first, I wasn’t sure whether to expect more sci fi or supernatural elements. The plot took a while to get going, leaving me initially confused as to the direction the story would take.

Once things started coming together, the story began to take off. There’s betrayal and intrigue from every direction, and Martin’s stuck in the middle of it. His struggles are interwoven with flashbacks of what his life was like before the Watch.

For a book that centered so strongly around human emotion, I would’ve preferred getting to know the side characters more. The writing style was difficult to follow at times, diving into a lengthy description of a crumbling house but offering no information about the lead character until several chapters into the book.

Some of the plot could have been revealed in a more logical manner, as well. I often found myself confused about a character’s motivation until later in the story. Everything made sense by the end of the story, but the confusion could have been avoided.

Overall, this was an interesting take on a possible future for humanity. It fell somewhere between dystopian and hopeful, and it managed to end a note that was appropriately bittersweet for the themes it dealt with.

SPFBO Rating: 5.0

Character (25 points) 13
Worldbuilding (20 points) 10.5
Plot (15 points) 8
Pacing (10 points) 6
Prose (5 points) 2
Dialogue (5 points) 2
Editing (5 points) 2
Presentation (5 points) 1.5
Personal Enjoyment (10 points) 3
Total Score 48 (3 stars)

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