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Disney’s Villains meet Gotham in this gritty fairy tale-inspired crime series. Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior by day, but by night she’s an intern at the Monarch City police department. She watches with envy from behind a desk as detectives come and go, trying to contain the city’s growing crime rate. For years, tension has simmered between the city’s wealthy Disney’s Villains meet Gotham in this gritty fairy tale-inspired crime series. Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior by day, but by night she’s an intern at the Monarch City police department. She watches with envy from behind a desk as detectives come and go, trying to contain the city’s growing crime rate. For years, tension has simmered between the city’s wealthy elite, and their plans to gentrify the decaying neighborhood called the Scar—once upon a time the epicenter of all things magic. When the daughter of one of the city’s most powerful businessmen goes missing, Mary Elizabeth is thrilled when the Chief actually puts her on the case. But what begins as one missing person’s report soon multiplies, leading her down the rabbit hole of a city in turmoil. There she finds a girl with horns, a boyfriend with secrets, and what seems to be a sea monster lurking in a poison lake. As the mystery circles closer to home, Mary finds herself caught in the fight between those who once had magic, and those who will do anything to bring it back. This dark and edgy YA series explores the reimagined origins of Maleficent, Ursula, Captain Hook, and other infamous Disney Villains like you’ve never seen before.


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Disney’s Villains meet Gotham in this gritty fairy tale-inspired crime series. Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior by day, but by night she’s an intern at the Monarch City police department. She watches with envy from behind a desk as detectives come and go, trying to contain the city’s growing crime rate. For years, tension has simmered between the city’s wealthy Disney’s Villains meet Gotham in this gritty fairy tale-inspired crime series. Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior by day, but by night she’s an intern at the Monarch City police department. She watches with envy from behind a desk as detectives come and go, trying to contain the city’s growing crime rate. For years, tension has simmered between the city’s wealthy elite, and their plans to gentrify the decaying neighborhood called the Scar—once upon a time the epicenter of all things magic. When the daughter of one of the city’s most powerful businessmen goes missing, Mary Elizabeth is thrilled when the Chief actually puts her on the case. But what begins as one missing person’s report soon multiplies, leading her down the rabbit hole of a city in turmoil. There she finds a girl with horns, a boyfriend with secrets, and what seems to be a sea monster lurking in a poison lake. As the mystery circles closer to home, Mary finds herself caught in the fight between those who once had magic, and those who will do anything to bring it back. This dark and edgy YA series explores the reimagined origins of Maleficent, Ursula, Captain Hook, and other infamous Disney Villains like you’ve never seen before.

30 review for City of Villains

  1. 4 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    **2.5-stars rounded up** City of Villains is the first installment of a new Fairy Tale-inspired Crime series published by Disney Books. Our protagonist is Mary Elizabeth, a teenage girl living within the Scar, an area where magic once thrived, but now no longer exists. Having lost her family under tragic circumstances, Mary's main goal is to one day become a police officer; she wants to help protect others. In addition to her schooling, Mary currently interns for the Monarch City Police Department. **2.5-stars rounded up** City of Villains is the first installment of a new Fairy Tale-inspired Crime series published by Disney Books. Our protagonist is Mary Elizabeth, a teenage girl living within the Scar, an area where magic once thrived, but now no longer exists. Having lost her family under tragic circumstances, Mary's main goal is to one day become a police officer; she wants to help protect others. In addition to her schooling, Mary currently interns for the Monarch City Police Department. While her main duties at the station involve paperwork, when a classmate of hers, Mally Saint, disappears, the Chief actually assigns her to the case, partnering her with a young detective, Bella. Mary is over the moon to finally have the chance to prove to the Chief what she can do. She sees this as her opportunity to seal a position within the department for after she finishes school. Mary and Bella begin their investigation, but instead of gaining any clarity, the mystery only gets deeper. After Mary's best friend, Ursula, disappears as well, Mary knows something more sinister is happening than just kids running away from the Scar, but who will believe her!? Even though I wanted to get to the bottom of the disappearances, the writing and overall plot of this story were a little basic for my tastes. I think this could have used another round of editing, perhaps cutting out some of the romantic aspects, changing Mary's age, and allowing this to fall more into a higher Middle Grade, or Tween, category. I just personally feel it is a better fit within that space than in YA; and that's okay! Tweens and Middle Graders deserve great stories as well! I did like the appearance of some of my favorite Disney characters, Maleficent, Ursula and Captain Hook, in teen-form. Overall, I think this is a solid premise for a series and I would be interested in picking up the second book. I'm not entirely sure where it will go from here, but I would like to find out. Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    This might be a case of mismatched reader and book. City of Villains is billed as YA but reads more like a MG novel, in my opinion. The idea behind this book is extremely clever, and while the book felt geared at a much younger crowd than I was expecting, it's quite a fast paced read, and one I'm definitely going to pass on to my daughter who will eat it up. If you aren't a fan of MG novels, you might have the same issues I did, but if you're open to something on the younger side of the genre/ag This might be a case of mismatched reader and book. City of Villains is billed as YA but reads more like a MG novel, in my opinion. The idea behind this book is extremely clever, and while the book felt geared at a much younger crowd than I was expecting, it's quite a fast paced read, and one I'm definitely going to pass on to my daughter who will eat it up. If you aren't a fan of MG novels, you might have the same issues I did, but if you're open to something on the younger side of the genre/age spectrum, I definitely recommend giving this one a try for yourself! *Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

    ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Reading the synopsis for this book you'd think it's going to be a Gotham meets OUAT sort of deal, right? Wrong. That's not what this is. This is what would happen if the CW had made a Descendants x Zootopia crossover, complete with characters written by someone that has never spoken to a teenager and enough cringeworthy dialogue to level a country. This was just... so bad. I typically ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Reading the synopsis for this book you'd think it's going to be a Gotham meets OUAT sort of deal, right? Wrong. That's not what this is. This is what would happen if the CW had made a Descendants x Zootopia crossover, complete with characters written by someone that has never spoken to a teenager and enough cringeworthy dialogue to level a country. This was just... so bad. I typically try to find something positive to say in each of my reviews, even if I hated the book. However, I've been trying for longer then I care to admit and I can't come up with one positive thing. I disliked every aspect of this book. The characters were were all either one dimensional or such bastardized, cartoonish reimaginings of their Disney counterparts that it's laughable. Or both. Quite a few of them fell into both categories, come to think of it. Retellings are hard because you're working with characters that mean a lot to a lot of people and it can be hard to pull that off in a unique way that still maintains the character's original energy, and I acknowledge that. But this is the worst take on any of these characters I've ever seen. (My only caveat to this is that Ursula had moments where she amused me, but those were few and far between and not nearly enough to save this.) The writing style was juvenile, which might have been purposeful if it wasn't for the swearing and other decidedly not-juvenile content. As someone who loves YA, I'm aware that there are definitely different age ranges in YA. Some of it is going to read younger, and that's okay. But this book wasn't going for younger audiences and it really kept pulling me out of the story. In a similar vein, the worldbuilding in this book? Nonexistent. They keep acting as if this is some other world with heroes and villains and magic, and then they reference Love Island or Michigan and you're just sitting there questioning what the heck is going on. It was extremely jarring. Blending fantasy and reality could have worked really well for this story, but it just... did not. At all. I could keep going but I feel like the rest of this review would slowly devolve from coherent, logical complaints to incoherent anger and confusion on why the heck it was supposed to be a dramatic reveal that a character got their girlfriend's name tattooed on their arm. Or the transparent, garish, nearly tone-deaf way the author tried to incorporate current events. Or any of my million other problems with this story. In the end, every book has its readers and I know this book is no different, but I feel like it's being marketed wrong. I can see a lot of people going into this (myself included) expecting something entirely different than this story is going to give.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    2.5 stars This was not for me and to be honest I had a hard time getting through it. Review to come! Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hayden

    This *could* end up being cheesy but how on earth can I say no to "Disney's Villains meet Gotham in this gritty fairy tale-inspired crime series" ???? This *could* end up being cheesy but how on earth can I say no to "Disney's Villains meet Gotham in this gritty fairy tale-inspired crime series" ????

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    This book has a very interesting premise and since it's been awhile since I've consumed any Disney content I was eager to read. While I got Gotham vibes in the very beginning I was unsure throughout exactly what this book was trying to be. It's much darker than traditional Disney fare since it features our teen villains in the making cursing, referencing sex, hanging at bars, etc. Plus someone is murdering people and sending their body parts to the station. At the same time this story takes plac This book has a very interesting premise and since it's been awhile since I've consumed any Disney content I was eager to read. While I got Gotham vibes in the very beginning I was unsure throughout exactly what this book was trying to be. It's much darker than traditional Disney fare since it features our teen villains in the making cursing, referencing sex, hanging at bars, etc. Plus someone is murdering people and sending their body parts to the station. At the same time this story takes place in the US in the modern day world because it references pop culture like Love Island and different states and countries. Mary Elizabeth Hart works as an intern at the local police station as a way to cope with the murder of her family and eventually make a difference. You already have to suspend belief that the police department would use un unpaid and untrained intern to help solve a missing person's case regardless of her knowing and being the same age as the missing person. She doesn't display any particular abilities that even make this worth the risk. She displayed pretty typical teen behavior especially when it came to her relationship with her boyfriend James. At times it felt like it was trying to be an edgier version of Descendants. And speaking of Descendants it did the same thing that made me mad about D3 where it used these Disney characters as a stand in for minorities. Disney did it in that movie by trying to make the villains similar to immigrants even though it was a shoddy at best comparison. And this book does it by being clearly inspired by the real life struggles of Black people in the US. And seeing that this book takes place in the US it was even more jarring. The Legacies live in the worst part of town, are treated horribly by the rich non magic descendants called the Narrows, and have to fight gentrification. When Legacy kids start disappearing the police don't care enough to properly search for them. However everyone in this story reads very white in description. The book did get more interesting towards the end when it finally felt like the story had moved along. Without spoiling too much the story behind the disappearances of the Legacy kids was interesting. Albiet again it felt paralleled to the treatment of Black people in the US. It definitely suffered from the problem some YA series have where book 1 has the sole purpose of setting up the series for future books instead of being able to stand on it's own. This might be more interesting as a graphic novel. I received this arc from Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stay Fetters

    "People are like maps. They have lines on them just like the ones on the palms of their hands. Those lines tell stories." This is the true story, of Disney Villains, picked to live in Gotham City, go to school together, and have their lives taped*. Find out what happens, when people stop being polite, and start getting real… The Real World: Villain Style! *(Okay, let me clarify things. No, they aren’t having their lives taped but reading a book is kind of like getting a behind the scenes look at t "People are like maps. They have lines on them just like the ones on the palms of their hands. Those lines tell stories." This is the true story, of Disney Villains, picked to live in Gotham City, go to school together, and have their lives taped*. Find out what happens, when people stop being polite, and start getting real… The Real World: Villain Style! *(Okay, let me clarify things. No, they aren’t having their lives taped but reading a book is kind of like getting a behind the scenes look at their everyday lives.... drama included.) The Real World meets Once Upon a Time in this sinful visualization of the villains of Disney. While this was a very quick read, it wasn’t as action packed as I hoped it would be. RTC

  8. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    **Thank you to Netgalley and Disney Books for an eArc in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changed my rating** In this first book of a series, we find Mary Elizabeth Heart, a girl who dreams of being a detective and helping others in her neighborhood after the brutal murder of her parents and sister. Mary Elizabeth is a "Legacy", the descendant of a family line that had magic. However, magic has been dead for years and after Legacy kids start to go missing, including Mary Elizabeth's **Thank you to Netgalley and Disney Books for an eArc in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changed my rating** In this first book of a series, we find Mary Elizabeth Heart, a girl who dreams of being a detective and helping others in her neighborhood after the brutal murder of her parents and sister. Mary Elizabeth is a "Legacy", the descendant of a family line that had magic. However, magic has been dead for years and after Legacy kids start to go missing, including Mary Elizabeth's best friend, she'll have to choose between her found family and her dream. I'm going to be completely honest...this book was a wreck. It was so clumsily handled. It becomes very obvious early on the "Legacy" kids are an analog for minorities, specifically the Black community in modern day America. They live in an area of the city that once was beautiful but is now crumbling apart. Some of the "Narrow" kids (those born without magical descent) try to copy their style of dress and their heart birthmarks with tattoos. A history teacher mentions a march that happened in the past for better infrastructure in the Legacy area, the Scar, and one of the Narrow kids says something to the effect of "they cost the city of Monarch thousands and looted and stole!" Another says a politician character is "going to make Monarch great again!" It feels like the author is hitting the reader over the head with this in a book about the origin stories of the villains. The *villains* are stand-ins for Black people and are constantly written as being in opposition to or unwilling to talk with the police in a book not by a Black author. This is problematic, to say the least. The way they become the villains we know and love was not super unique but I did think how we got there was new. The actual antagonist isn't as much of a surprise as they should be. This all said, it was a wreck the way that a bad movie can be really entertaining. I wasn't ever bored even though this book has a LOT of problems. It was really funny, though I think most of it was unintentionally so. My absolute favorite thing is that Gaston is a detective and the author decided he needed a first name, so he's now "Officer Tony Gaston" and it cracked me up every time I thought about it. I think this book was amusing, but I would recommend the author think long and hard about how she proceeds with the series since she decided to make the "villains" analogs for Black people. I'm curious to see how it plays out. ⭐️⭐️/5 stars

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    This is another case of the story having an interesting concept with a lot of potential and the execution just not doing it for me. I did appreciate the nods to a variety of Disney properties (specifically as pertains to villains), and was very amused about the details chosen for incorporation in this tale. But the messiness of the world, the uneven pacing and the characters feeling very much like caricatures made this story far less memorable than it could have been otherwise.

  10. 5 out of 5

    The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori)

    DNF @ 25% I really dislike the writing style of this book. The author seems to rely on telling us what happens instead of showing it to us, and this results in little development of the world and the characters. This one has so much potential with its concept of villain origin stories, but unfortunately, I have lost interest in this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ashton Reed

    3.5/5 stars Hmmm… this book leaves something to be desired, but it isn’t a total waste of time! :) My Moodboard Goodreads summary: Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior by day, but by night she’s an intern at the Monarch City police department. She watches with envy from behind a desk as detectives come and go, trying to contain the city’s growing crime rate. For years, tension has simmered between the city’s wealthy elite, and their plans to gentrify the decaying neighborhood called the Scar 3.5/5 stars Hmmm… this book leaves something to be desired, but it isn’t a total waste of time! :) My Moodboard Goodreads summary: Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior by day, but by night she’s an intern at the Monarch City police department. She watches with envy from behind a desk as detectives come and go, trying to contain the city’s growing crime rate. For years, tension has simmered between the city’s wealthy elite, and their plans to gentrify the decaying neighborhood called the Scar—once upon a time the epicenter of all things magic. When the daughter of one of the city’s most powerful businessmen goes missing, Mary Elizabeth is thrilled when the Chief actually puts her on the case. But what begins as one missing person’s report soon multiplies, leading her down the rabbit hole of a city in turmoil. There she finds a girl with horns, a boyfriend with secrets, and what seems to be a sea monster lurking in a poison lake. As the mystery circles closer to home, Mary finds herself caught in the fight between those who once had magic, and those who will do anything to bring it back. The concept of City of Villains is very interesting and is probably its strongest asset. Estelle Laure has created a Renegades + Descendants + Nancy Drew world that approaches infamous Disney villains from an entirely different angle while still including intriguing characters and magic for days. As the various threads of mystery begin to unravel and characters begin to change, the anticipation really hooks you to the finish. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t have a great amount of plot; by the end, it doesn’t quite feel like you’ve read a whole book, making this a solid introduction to the world and the characters but not as solid of a story arc on its own. Also, I have to address the writing; although it gets better by the end, the content feels YA while the writing style feels MG. It’s honestly a little insulting how childish the language is at the beginning since this is targeted for teens and young adults - I’m seventeen, and I promise I understand things without the internal dialogue’s over-explaining, thank ya. Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It was comfortably paced and kept me company, but I’m not sure I recommend it if you’re looking for anything older than a younger-YA novel. *Thank you Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own! This book releases on January 26th, 2020 if it sounds like something you’re interested in!* If you enjoyed this review, you can friend me here on Goodreads and follow my Bookstagram/Pinterest/Twitter @ashton_reads. Thanks for reading!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sara LaValley

    I loved the Disney Villains meets Gotham vibes of this story, it's perfect for anyone who enjoyed books like Kingdom Keepers growing up. I enjoyed all the references to different characters, and think the concept of the villains as teens (before they become villains) was super interesting to explore. I found myself struggling to get interested at first, there was a lot of world-building that felt a lot like info dumps, but once the mystery is established, the pace picks up in a major way. I thin I loved the Disney Villains meets Gotham vibes of this story, it's perfect for anyone who enjoyed books like Kingdom Keepers growing up. I enjoyed all the references to different characters, and think the concept of the villains as teens (before they become villains) was super interesting to explore. I found myself struggling to get interested at first, there was a lot of world-building that felt a lot like info dumps, but once the mystery is established, the pace picks up in a major way. I think it's important to note going in that this book is definitely more for the young end of the young adult spectrum, bordering on middle grade, and I think if you are prepared for that type of story going in, you will enjoy this book. I also don't know if the published version of this book will include a map, but I think it would be incredibly useful, just so readers can more easily orient themselves in the world. Okay so now spoiler-talk, because there's actually a lot I ended up wanting to unpack. This is your last warning if you don't want spoilers, my friends, click away now! Okay so obviously we know that Ursula is, well, Ursula, James is Hook, and Mally Saint is Maleficent. These were all pretty established early on, and as a result acted as a perfect distraction as to who exactly Mary Elizabeth is (or maybe I'm totally thick-headed and did not put it together until the first time Mary went through the mirror), and that is the Queen of Hearts. She's killer at croquet pinball, and with all the references to her mother with the bright red hair, wearing the dress with hearts on it the day she died, it's the only person she could possibly be. Which, as a result, makes me super intrigued for Mary's story going forward. Will she take the turn towards evil, will she go a little mad, or will she be a good, old-fashioned anti-hero? I'm also very interested to see what nefarious dealings the Chief is up to. I almost wish there was a bit more of a focus on The Mad Hatter mystery, or that it tied into the main plot a little bit more, for a couple reasons. First, it's super dark and twisted, and as a result very compelling to my Criminal Minds-loving self, but secondly, it ties in with the Gotham vibes super well. As soon as the story was established, I thought to myself "oh this is awesome, this is straight out of a comic, something The Joker or The Riddler would do." But then the case more or less faded into the background as Bella and Mary Elizabeth went along with their own case. I don't know, I just wish it all tied together a little more. I also wish we saw just a little bit more interactions between Lucas and the main characters, then the twist of his family being behind the testing would be a little bit bigger, a little more shocking. Overall, I think this was a fun book, and the solid opener for what could be a very intriguing series.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    I have actually no clue anymore how I came across this book and have absolutely no idea why I decided to pre-order it. However, I think it was the idea of a combined origin stories for a lot of Disney villains that actually pulled me in. And since I'm currently staying at my parents and don't really have the time to read big books right now, this book was the perfect Sunday morning read. I read it in bed in one sitting and enjoyed myself immensely. Of course, part of the fun is recognizing all th I have actually no clue anymore how I came across this book and have absolutely no idea why I decided to pre-order it. However, I think it was the idea of a combined origin stories for a lot of Disney villains that actually pulled me in. And since I'm currently staying at my parents and don't really have the time to read big books right now, this book was the perfect Sunday morning read. I read it in bed in one sitting and enjoyed myself immensely. Of course, part of the fun is recognizing all the different Disney characters. Some are quite easy (either because they have a very recognizable first or last name), others are a little harder, but I loved how all the characters had something unique and different, something we hadn't seen from them before, combined with some very well known characteristics. I also love how they are now all living in the same city and literally interacting and crossing paths. Especially because the city seems a really awesome place with quite some history AND an interesting future. I loved how we were thrown into this world and story without info-dumps and lengthy explanations. When we needed certain information we got it, but overall the story was quite fast paced and really moved forward. And yet it never felt like it was rushed. Of course, I wouldn't have been against some more depth and some more emotional scenes, but it's only a minor remark. And that's mostly because our main character is quite a joy to read about. She has one foot in one world and one foot in the other. Not only does this lead to her being an outcast in both worlds, it also means that there are quite a few moments where she has to choose. And as you might expect from a Villain Origin stories she doesn't always make the easy choice or the one I as a reader would want her to make. The first book started an exciting story at least and I can't wait to read the next one!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Martin

    Mary Heart is an intern at the local police department and when a few of her friends go missing, she's put on the case to help figure out what has happened. But will she figure it out before she becomes the next victim? This was such a fun and creative reimagining of how some of the baddest of Disney's villains got their start! It is a great mystery with a lot of bread crumbs that you have to follow and pieces that have to be put together. Mary, herself, goes through a lot as she tries to find he Mary Heart is an intern at the local police department and when a few of her friends go missing, she's put on the case to help figure out what has happened. But will she figure it out before she becomes the next victim? This was such a fun and creative reimagining of how some of the baddest of Disney's villains got their start! It is a great mystery with a lot of bread crumbs that you have to follow and pieces that have to be put together. Mary, herself, goes through a lot as she tries to find her friends and ends up making a great new one along the way. It's a novel about change, embracing your destiny and letting go. I will admit this is not at all what I expected but ultimately, I embraced that and ran with it and truly enjoyed this novel. I feel that this is the perfect book for those looking for a Gothem type mystery with some X-Men type moments. That is what it reminded me of. It had action, magic and amazing Disney villains! Sometimes different is cool and in this case, it worked! Thank you Netgalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide (Disney-Hyperion) for the Advanced Reader's Copy!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Out the gate, I will start by saying that this is a younger YA story and if you go in expecting anything else you maybe disappointed. Yes, the main character is a senior in high school, but this definitely a younger YA story. It does a good job nailing the fairy tale-inspired crime aspects of the story; however, with such a large cast of characters the characterizations sometimes get a bit muddled up. Overall, I am interested in continuing on in the City of Villains because I had enjoyed the mai Out the gate, I will start by saying that this is a younger YA story and if you go in expecting anything else you maybe disappointed. Yes, the main character is a senior in high school, but this definitely a younger YA story. It does a good job nailing the fairy tale-inspired crime aspects of the story; however, with such a large cast of characters the characterizations sometimes get a bit muddled up. Overall, I am interested in continuing on in the City of Villains because I had enjoyed the main selling point of it. I received an ecopy of this book through Netgalley; however, my opinions are my own.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    1.5 stars This was really weird and hard to follow. Mostly I was bored. Nothing was explained, even at the end. The romance was weird. At 13 James (Hook) decides that he’ll be with Mary Elizabeth Heart (the queen of Hearts) forever and they talk about marriage? He’s barely in the story and they spent virtually no time together, so this Great Love was very out of place. The ending wasn’t satisfying and a story about Disney villains who have relatives in California or Michigan seemed out of place.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    *Source* Publisher *Genre* Young Adult / Fantasy / Fairy Tales *Rating* 3.5-4 *Thoughts* City of Villains is the first installment in author Estelle Laure's City of Villains trilogy. I like to think of this book as a villains re-imaging story. The story takes place 20 years After the Fall when magic disappeared. It's also the 2 year anniversary of the night the Ward, the crown jewel of the Scar, came crashing down killing thousands Legacies who worked at the tower in the center of their corner of th *Source* Publisher *Genre* Young Adult / Fantasy / Fairy Tales *Rating* 3.5-4 *Thoughts* City of Villains is the first installment in author Estelle Laure's City of Villains trilogy. I like to think of this book as a villains re-imaging story. The story takes place 20 years After the Fall when magic disappeared. It's also the 2 year anniversary of the night the Ward, the crown jewel of the Scar, came crashing down killing thousands Legacies who worked at the tower in the center of their corner of the city. Now, the only thing remaining is a lake made of black water that is highly toxic where the building used to be. 17-year old Mary Elizabeth lives in an area called the Scar. The Scar is an area where magic once thrived, but now supposedly no longer exists. *Full Review @ Gizmos Reviews* https://gizmosreviews.blogspot.com/20...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of City of Villains in exchange for an honest review. I don't know who the audience for this could possibly be. The writing is all showing no telling which is typical of younger YA/middle grade but the presence of swearing and a few more adult conversations means this can't really be marketed at readers in that age demographic. A lot of this book suffers from a similar inbetweeness that keeps it from forming a strong identity or audience. We're in a w Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of City of Villains in exchange for an honest review. I don't know who the audience for this could possibly be. The writing is all showing no telling which is typical of younger YA/middle grade but the presence of swearing and a few more adult conversations means this can't really be marketed at readers in that age demographic. A lot of this book suffers from a similar inbetweeness that keeps it from forming a strong identity or audience. We're in a world with magic that recently died and a fairytale-esque social hierarchy, but our protagonist also references Love Island so apparently we're in a modern day alternate earth. A lot of the names are comically fantastical, but then we also have characters casually named "Lucas" and "Kyle". Immersion here was near impossible because the world was so, so shaking that every time I thought I had a handle on the world, tone, or demographic, I'd get a jarring reminder of something to the contrary.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Critter

    Magic died suddenly many years ago and took many people with it. Mary Elizabeth Heart is a teen who was orphaned at a young age and now has an internship with the local police department. Her internship is spent filing cases while jealously watching the officers go about their job. When a girl from her school goes missing, she is put on the case with a young detective named Bella. More threats rise up while they investigate, and another teen goes missing and reports of a sea monster pop up. This Magic died suddenly many years ago and took many people with it. Mary Elizabeth Heart is a teen who was orphaned at a young age and now has an internship with the local police department. Her internship is spent filing cases while jealously watching the officers go about their job. When a girl from her school goes missing, she is put on the case with a young detective named Bella. More threats rise up while they investigate, and another teen goes missing and reports of a sea monster pop up. This book felt like it was targeted to the extremely young end of YA and at times felt more like a middle grade novel, than a YA. When there was cursing within the book, it felt out of place and unnatural, especially with how young this book feels. The story also suffers from the fact that everything was told, and nothing was shown. Some of the writing is also confusing and I had to reread sections in order to understand what was going on. The idea behind this book, mixing Gotham city and Disney villains together, is an interesting one, that doesn’t feel like it was pulled off very well. While there is an interesting conversation within this novel about gentrification, I would have liked for the impacts to have been discussed in a more meaningful manner as well as the tensions between the Legacies and the Narrows. The retelling of the origin stories of the villains, The Queen of Hearts, Ursula, Maleficent, and Captain Hook, where all interesting and I enjoyed how they were incorporated into a modern setting. I would like to thank Disney-Hyperion for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elyse (ElyseReadsandSpeaks)

    What a letdown. This book started at 3 stars, progressed quickly to 2 stars, even moved down to 1 star at one point because I was angry that it overpromised and underdelivered, but eventually settled at 2 stars. I was expecting some fascinating Joker-like origin stories for some of the meanest Disney villains and all I got was a sloppy story that didn't make much sense. In this world, Mary Elizabeth Heart (nod to the Queen of the Hearts) is a teenage intern at a detective agency that starts sleut What a letdown. This book started at 3 stars, progressed quickly to 2 stars, even moved down to 1 star at one point because I was angry that it overpromised and underdelivered, but eventually settled at 2 stars. I was expecting some fascinating Joker-like origin stories for some of the meanest Disney villains and all I got was a sloppy story that didn't make much sense. In this world, Mary Elizabeth Heart (nod to the Queen of the Hearts) is a teenage intern at a detective agency that starts sleuthing for answers when her friends, Ursula (yes, that one) and Mally (eventually Maleficent), go missing. Mary's boyfriend, James (Captain Hook), who is madly in love with her is also acting suspicious. I don't know why he's madly in love with her. We're just told that he is. This world apparently once had magic and now it doesn't. Why? I don't know. But families that once had magic are called "legacies" and are hoping for magic to return. I don't even know what kind of magic this world had, how only certain families had it, and why it would be good or bad for it to return. I have no clue. The only character you really get to know in the story is Mary and she's honestly kind of bland. You never get to know Ursula or Mally so it's hard to care when they go missing and even harder to care when they return. And James. We are told over and over again that James is the person Mary trusts most in the world, but he's barely in the story. Except for a ridiculous tattoo reveal that appears to come out of nowhere. Why 2 stars instead of 1 star? I actually liked the idea of what was happening to these Disney villains as they were missing. I thought it was a creative way to explain their features and provided an explanation for why they're so mistrusting and against the regular civilians. This idea on its own had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to make up for the rest of story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J. Else

    2.5 stars I was really enjoying the main character's struggles and discoveries. She was a compelling, angsty teen stuck between her desire to work for the police force to keep her beloved home safe and her loyalty to her friends. There's a lot of world building, but I never learned quite where the Scar is located. The author hints its connected to a major city, but where? How does this fit with our reality? This has the potential to be a great study of nature versus nurture, the treatment of magi 2.5 stars I was really enjoying the main character's struggles and discoveries. She was a compelling, angsty teen stuck between her desire to work for the police force to keep her beloved home safe and her loyalty to her friends. There's a lot of world building, but I never learned quite where the Scar is located. The author hints its connected to a major city, but where? How does this fit with our reality? This has the potential to be a great study of nature versus nurture, the treatment of magic and how it affects people both good and bad, the duality of good v. evil in each of us, and how consumerism is destroying the magic of the world. Great potential, right? At first, it got me thinking. Honestly, though, things fell short as concepts were never developed. There are many scenes which were confusing in choreography. Nothing is shown to readers. A character will gasp, but instead of letting readers experience why, they're told what it is. This drew me out of the narrative as I kept waiting to find out what was happening or where a character went in a scene. I didn't experience events with the character. Occasionally, people would just show up or disappear every now and then (like Mary Elizabeth's partner). By the end, it felt like one big set up for book 2. There was no resolution for most threads or for the main characters. Instead, I was left with more questions and feelings of annoyance. 1. What was James up to??? How did he know where everyone was and how did the serum affect him? 2. How did the serum affect Mary Elizabeth? Its hinted she was injected and she should be feeling something in about 10 minutes. Then…NOTHING. 3. If a dart caused James’s hand to shrivel up and die, and he used his body as a shield to protect Mary Elizabeth, why didn’t the rest of his body blacken and die? (and why did Mary Elizabeth volunteer to sever his hand?? I mean, ew! Let the people with actual magic do that less painfully!) 4. How did James get the blue magic in the first place? 5. What proof do they have against Kyle? It appears more in his favor than against him after the attack between Mary Elizabeth’s friends and Kyle’s goons? 6. What was the chief doing? That never wrapped up…seriously? This book felt sloppy. I loved the concept of how these villains emerged, but that wasn’t until the very end, so the title itself is misleading. Making the change not of the characters’s choosing really makes them relatable, but I wanted more. Instead, I was left feeling like the book was just a prequel or something. Didn’t feel substantial. This entire book could have been summarized easily in the next book instead of spending 240 pages preparing for book two. Disney-Hyperion is typically great, but this book needs lot of rework to make it feel relevant and different from re-imaginings that have come before. I kept getting a "Descendants" vibe.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    I feel like this book really just missed the mark. First, the writing was definitely more telling than showing and I did not feel connected to any of the plot or characters. I also felt that we were dropped into the story after all friendships and relationships were developed. And then we were not shown much to prove the validity of those relationships. We just had to believe that any feelings were real. This is also a world where there used to be magic, and it's now called The Scar. However, ther I feel like this book really just missed the mark. First, the writing was definitely more telling than showing and I did not feel connected to any of the plot or characters. I also felt that we were dropped into the story after all friendships and relationships were developed. And then we were not shown much to prove the validity of those relationships. We just had to believe that any feelings were real. This is also a world where there used to be magic, and it's now called The Scar. However, there is mention of California?! I don't understand exactly what this world is supposed to be like. There is no real worldbuilding except for being told that magic used to exist. And then finally, this might just be a 'me thing' but I wished for more out of the names of the characters. Or I guess, the characters themselves. This story is supposed to revolve around Disney characters, and some of the characters have the same name as their Disney counterpart (Ursula, Flora, Fauna, Merryweather). But then there are others that have a more 'normal' name. For example, our main character is called Mary Elizabeth, but she is obviously based on a Disney character. And there is Dally who runs Wonderland (a club the teens frequent), who I'm pretty sure is based on the White Rabbit. However, I'm not 100% sure about him. And there are others who are supposed to be Legacy (people who used to or are descended from magic) but their names and characterization do not tell me who they are supposed to be. I was really hoping for something that had more life to it. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing the E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I wanted to love this so much - I thought it had such an interesting premise, but unfortunately, the execution failed for me. After reading the prologue and first chapter, I truly thought I was going to DNF it, but the mystery held my attention enough to keep going, and then I decided to just finish it. But it took me much longer than it should have to get through, and it's not a very long book. I feel like one of the problems I had with the book was that the writing was too juvenile and felt mo I wanted to love this so much - I thought it had such an interesting premise, but unfortunately, the execution failed for me. After reading the prologue and first chapter, I truly thought I was going to DNF it, but the mystery held my attention enough to keep going, and then I decided to just finish it. But it took me much longer than it should have to get through, and it's not a very long book. I feel like one of the problems I had with the book was that the writing was too juvenile and felt more like a middle grade read, but the content was more of a YA level, and so it created an issue with reading and being able to connect. I also think the characters were fairly one dimensional - we didn't really see much to them, which didn't help anything. I think I would have enjoyed this better if the Disney villains aspect wasn't part of the book - if it was just a contemporary fantasy with a mystery involving missing people, I think that would have worked better for me. I also think that the mystery was fairly obvious to uncover, and the final showdown also seemed to lack something. So I think the book just took itself a little too seriously for what it was, which made enjoyment difficult. I won't be continuing the series when future books come out, but I guess I don't regret finishing this one either. Thank you so much to netgalley and Disney publishing for providing me with this arc in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Hair

    When I come to the end of a book and have a hard time finding anything I liked about it I think it’s safe to give a one star rating. City of Villains sounded like it could work: the world of Disney meets crime noir. That’s not what this is though. This is a confused mess that wants to be a lot of things and fails at them all. The Disney characters (or their “gritty” counterparts) are barely relevant to the story, and their connections to the originals tenuous at best. Magic is dead and doesn’t p When I come to the end of a book and have a hard time finding anything I liked about it I think it’s safe to give a one star rating. City of Villains sounded like it could work: the world of Disney meets crime noir. That’s not what this is though. This is a confused mess that wants to be a lot of things and fails at them all. The Disney characters (or their “gritty” counterparts) are barely relevant to the story, and their connections to the originals tenuous at best. Magic is dead and doesn’t play a part until much later when it comes along to really muddle up the story. As many others have said, this book can’t seem to decide whether it’s for a very young audience or an older one; in one scene people are cursing about body parts being shipped to the police station and in another they’re all grumbling about math class and blushing over a kiss. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. I only finished this because it was such a quick read and I had a slight bit of hope that it would somehow get better. It doesn’t. It sucks. The ending is ludicrously stupid, plot holes are left all around, and I really didn’t like a single character. Skip it, guys.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    Thank you to Disney-Hyperion for sending me an ARC via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 3/5 stars. I liked the premise of this story a lot, but I was left pretty confused while reading it. I also think the pacing was a bit off, and that made it hard to connect with the characters and the story. We’ve got Mary Elizabeth, our narrator, who is a Legacy and lives in the Scar. She’s interning for the police, and she gets assigned the case of a missing Legacy girl that she goes to school wi Thank you to Disney-Hyperion for sending me an ARC via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 3/5 stars. I liked the premise of this story a lot, but I was left pretty confused while reading it. I also think the pacing was a bit off, and that made it hard to connect with the characters and the story. We’ve got Mary Elizabeth, our narrator, who is a Legacy and lives in the Scar. She’s interning for the police, and she gets assigned the case of a missing Legacy girl that she goes to school with named Mally Saint. Legacies are the children of people who had magic at one point. Magic is now gone, and the Legacies are divided into different belief groups about magic. There are also Narrows who don’t have magic at all, and they’re invading the Scar (the place most Legacies live) because it’s cheap and easy development. I think I got this explanation right, but there was a lot of info about these two groups, and I’m still a bit confused by them. Shortly after Mally’s disappearance, Mary Elizabeth’s best friend, Ursula, goes missing too. Things start to get weird, magic could be back, and Mary Elizabeth and her partner Bella are investigating. This is where I really got lost because I wasn’t finding many clues about what had happened, and things seemed to be happening for no reason. I did figure out “whodunnit” right before it was revealed, but it wasn’t fully explained in terms of motives. Overall, this was an interesting take on villain origin stories (Maleficent, Ursula, and Captain Hook along with some appearances from others), but I was left confused and wanting more. It was a pretty short book, and it kind of just ended. It was a bit abrupt. I didn’t connect with the characters very much and the pacing felt off, but it was a decent read if you like these Disney villains.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Oscar

    *Disclaimer, I revised a free copy of this book from the publisher for a honest review, this will not affect my thoughts or feelings to the book* Boy oh boy did I LOVE this book. From the amazing mystery and beautifully placed clues it was such a fun one to try to solve. Mary’s character was so fun to read and very lovable. I thought all of out supporting characters were also very nicely written. I thought the pacing was very well done for this book, it never felt way to slow or way to fast for m *Disclaimer, I revised a free copy of this book from the publisher for a honest review, this will not affect my thoughts or feelings to the book* Boy oh boy did I LOVE this book. From the amazing mystery and beautifully placed clues it was such a fun one to try to solve. Mary’s character was so fun to read and very lovable. I thought all of out supporting characters were also very nicely written. I thought the pacing was very well done for this book, it never felt way to slow or way to fast for me. The cliffhanger hanger we were left on has me dieing for when the next book comes out it was that good. Overall this book was just a very enjoyable read for me, also as a Disney fan I felt very pleased on how the Disney characters were involved. This book is a must read for any Disney fan or whoever wants a good mystery to solve. Definitely going to be one of my top books of 2021. I will be posting this review on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble January 15th.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Oscar

    *Disclaimer, I revised a free copy of this book from the publisher for a honest review, this will not affect my thoughts or feelings to the book* Boy oh boy did I LOVE this book. From the amazing mystery and beautifully placed clues it was such a fun one to try to solve. Mary’s character was so fun to read and very lovable. I thought all of out supporting characters were also very nicely written. I thought the pacing was very well done for this book, it never felt way to slow or way to fast for m *Disclaimer, I revised a free copy of this book from the publisher for a honest review, this will not affect my thoughts or feelings to the book* Boy oh boy did I LOVE this book. From the amazing mystery and beautifully placed clues it was such a fun one to try to solve. Mary’s character was so fun to read and very lovable. I thought all of out supporting characters were also very nicely written. I thought the pacing was very well done for this book, it never felt way to slow or way to fast for me. The cliffhanger hanger we were left on has me dieing for when the next book comes out it was that good. Overall this book was just a very enjoyable read for me, also as a Disney fan I felt very pleased on how the Disney characters were involved. This book is a must read for any Disney fan or whoever wants a good mystery to solve. Definitely going to be one of my top books of 2021.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Port

    Thank-you to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for an e-Arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. Described as Disney Villains meets Gotham in a gritty crime inspired series - I was intrigued to give it a read. My first impression, that while listed as YA and except for some language and adult situations, the story and pace felt more MG. The introduction of James (Captain Hook), Mally (Maleficent), and Ursula and who they were before they were villains was an interesting take for their orig Thank-you to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for an e-Arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. Described as Disney Villains meets Gotham in a gritty crime inspired series - I was intrigued to give it a read. My first impression, that while listed as YA and except for some language and adult situations, the story and pace felt more MG. The introduction of James (Captain Hook), Mally (Maleficent), and Ursula and who they were before they were villains was an interesting take for their origin stories. However, while there was significant character development and world creation, I felt there was something missing from the overall story. Fans who enjoy origin stories of classic Disney Villains, will enjoy reading this book. I know I am curious to read the next book in this series!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kim Roberts

    I love fairy tale retellings and this was a good one! This was an interesting book. I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen and reading while trying to do other things. While this book did seem to feel like it was a little on lower end of YA, almost middle grade, it still was a fun read. The series was a little slow in the beginning and took a little while to figure out who was who in the story (characters names to fairy tale characters...and that could have just been me), but on I love fairy tale retellings and this was a good one! This was an interesting book. I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen and reading while trying to do other things. While this book did seem to feel like it was a little on lower end of YA, almost middle grade, it still was a fun read. The series was a little slow in the beginning and took a little while to figure out who was who in the story (characters names to fairy tale characters...and that could have just been me), but once I did, I became super invested and wanted to keep reading. I'm hoping the series continues that I can learn more about the characters. I want to learn what happens to her and what her life brings her after the big decision she had to make at the end of the story. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC book in return of my honest feedback!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    The information for this book says ages 14-18, but to me it read a lot younger than that. There were certainly some "older" events that happened, like murder and kidnapping, but it didn't really feel real to me. The whole tone just felt very young, like a Disney channel show. I love Disney, but this villain story just wasn't for me. I believe this is the start of a series, but I would not continue on. That said, I think younger teens could really enjoy this. I received an eARC of this book from th The information for this book says ages 14-18, but to me it read a lot younger than that. There were certainly some "older" events that happened, like murder and kidnapping, but it didn't really feel real to me. The whole tone just felt very young, like a Disney channel show. I love Disney, but this villain story just wasn't for me. I believe this is the start of a series, but I would not continue on. That said, I think younger teens could really enjoy this. I received an eARC of this book from the publisher.

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