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Martha lives with other Unwanted in Fire City, a factory zone which supplies the Wanted and their demon masters. Nobody knows how the Wanted - a shadowy group of the rich and powerful from the world as it used to be - managed to summon the Demons, but all the Unwanted know what it's like to live under their rule - nasty, brutish and short. But Martha isn't the type to give up and she has joined the Resistance, fighting to save the old and infirm from the demons' regular cullings. It's a hopeless task though, and Resistance numbers are shrinking by the day...

Fire City by Bali Rai

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Interesting and genre-bending future catastrophe novel in which a human elite allies itself with demons and treats the population abominably. The blend of horror and dystopia is great but some may find this novel a little overbusy and confused.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Corgi
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0552556025

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... until Jonah arrives in Fire City. He has powerful weapons and can fight like no-one Martha has ever seen. With his help, Martha can finally see a future for the Resistance and for humankind. But Jonah is secretive. What is he hiding and can the Resistance fully trust him?

I really like Bali Rai. He can turn his hand to all sorts of different types of book. He can write kitchen sink dramas about social issues, thrillers, even historical fantasy. Here, he takes the hot topic of future catastrophe and spins a novel around it that blends horror and dystopian elements. His Fire City is a terrible place, full of danger, death and decay, and he paints a vivid picture of it. He is able to make you sympathise with the protagonists, even when they are forced to make morally questionable decisions. It's do or die out there and whatever you do, someone will be hurt. I also liked the blend of the supernatural demons with the standard dystopian setting of a world ruined by wars fought for profit by elites. So there is a lot to like in Fire City.

Even so, there's so much in it - a main course of dystopia but elements of horror, the supernatural, even teen romance - that sometimes it all just seems a little bit too busy and a clear narrative progression feels blocked by everything but the kitchen sink. Much of the story is told in the third person from the viewpoint of multiple characters, including Martha. But every so often Martha takes over in the first person. I found this a little bit jarring. Alternate first and third person by all means, but let's keep the characters consistent within it.

Criticisms aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Fire City. It was exciting and interesting and offered something a little different in a dystopian genre that is beginning to feel a little bit stale, even for fans.

You might also enjoy D4rk Inside by Jeyn Roberts - no worldbuilding in this dystopia; it just goes for violence and frenzy. Or how about The Bad Tuesdays: Twisted Symmetry by Benjamin J Myers - it has nasties along the lines of the demons in Fire City and a similar destroyed urban environment. We also have a review of Rai's Tales from India.

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