The Last City – Nina D’Aleo

About the book

An intoxicating blend of noir crime, science fiction and fantasy THE LAST CITY is BLADE RUNNER meets PERDIDO STREET STATION.

Scorpia – the last city of Aquais – where the Ar Antarians rule, the machine-breeds serve and in-between a multitude of races and species eke out an existence somewhere between the ever-blazing city lights and the endless darkness of the underside.

As a spate of murders and abductions grip the city, new recruit Silho Brabel is sent to the Oscuri Trackers, an elite military squad commanded by the notorious Copernicus Kane. But Silho has a terrible secret and must fight to hide her strange abilities and monstrous heritage.

As the team delve deeper into Scorpia’s underworld, they discover a nightmare truth.

Hunted by demons, the Trackers must band together with a condemned fugitive, a rogue wraith and a gangster king and stake their lives against an all-powerful enemy to try to save their world and one another.

eBook – 400 pages
Published on August 1, 2012
Published by Momentum
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

You can purchase this book by clicking on the following link: The Last City


Nina D’Aleo is a new name in speculative fiction. I accepted the review copy of The Last City because the cover blurb says it’s a mixture of Perdido Street Station and Blade Runner. How can I turn that down?  Honestly, I was expecting some safe steampunk/fantasy thing with some China Mieville elements thrown in for good measure. That is not what I got. The truth is, while The Last City does have some hiccups, it’s a shockingly unique, absolutely riveting work of fiction that refuses to be forced to wear any standard genre labels.

The Last City might seem a little off-putting to readers at first. The thing is, this book is so completely different that there aren’t any books to use as references or comparisons with new terms/breeds of people/aspects of the city. This is incredibly refreshing to readers like myself, who are intrigued and enamored by what hasn’t been done before. Other readers might feel lost in the new terminologies and this could cause them to have a difficult time orienting themselves with the world and the main characters.

However, once you get used to all the new terms and the myriads of never-before-seen breeds and crossbreeds of people and all their abilities, a surprisingly fast moving, enveloping plot unfolds. The Last City is equal parts action and intrigue. While some of the plot twists and turns might be a tad predictable, and the start does lag slightly, the pace quickly picks up pulls you under. If nothing else, D’Aleo will enchant you with her refreshing Mieville-esque world.

With new authors I always expect some hiccups and allow about a fourth of the book to pass before I think the author really finds their literary footing. However, D’Aleo really didn’t need any of this headway. She starts The Last City with confident, lyrical and descriptive prose. I was actually surprised by how many passages in this book I found to be memorable due to the way they were written. D’Aleo really has potential as a fantastic author. It shows incredible confidence and scope of vision that she’s combined powerful prose with such a remarkable world.

The main characters in The Last City are all rather enchanting in their own ways. While some of them do lack a little depth, most seem to be incredibly well fleshed out and seem to grow on readers as the book progresses. One interesting aspect of The Last City I feel I should point out is how D’Aleo seems to balance every character’s strength with a potentially crippling weakness. None of her characters are predictably perfect, or wonderful alpha characters. Each character battles something that could be debilitating. For example, one character struggles with abilities she cannot control, which profoundly affects her ability to function. Another character, a known criminal, is battling a disease (of sorts) that also profoundly debilitates her, and the list goes on. I found this balance between strength and weakness to be incredibly humanizing due to the new and colorful dimensions it added to each character.

As I briefly mentioned above, the start of The Last City is a bit slow. It takes a little while to get the plot-ball rolling. While this can be slightly frustrating, the slow start does allow readers more time to become familiar with the world, people, abilities and new terms that are thrown around. By the time the plot really gets going (and it does get going at a fast, steady clip), readers will be familiar enough with Scorpia and her people that they will easily be able to follow and absorb the quick pace in which things get going.

The Last City is a book of balance. D’Aleo writes an action packed book which is balanced by an incredible world and some tantalizing depth. Her characters are wonderfully weird, balanced by some very humanizing attributes. D’Aleo’s world is absolutely memorable due to how wonderfully unique it is. Her prose are stunning. Basically, for a debut work, this is a book that the author should be amazingly proud of, as it truly sets her apart from the crowd. I can’t wait to see what’s next. D’Aleo is an author to watch.


4/5 stars

5 Responses

  • I will read and review THE LAST CITY in September. Like you I could not resist the cover blurb. Normally I avoid to read reviews of books which I will review but I must read your review because I wanted to get an idea of what to expect.
    Your review promise a lot and so I’m more eager to read the book.

  • Benjamin

    Sarah, I’m sorry, but what exactly is so unique about this book? It doesn’t seem very clear from your review. Is it the blending of genres (Blade Runner meets PSS)? Just going off the blurb, the individual elements seem pretty generic to me actually.

    • BookwormBlues

      I decided to keep the details out of my review because I’m not sure how to articulate them without giving too much away. However, the world fascinated me and the people that inhabit it are very.. unique. I don’t read much “new weird” so maybe if I did I wouldn’t have been as blown away by many of these unique races and ideas. However, I was. I really enjoyed it. Compared to what I normally read, it was very different.

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