Monday, April 20, 2015

The Artful by Wilbert Stanton (review)

The Artful (Shadows of the City, #1)
Shadows of the City:  
The Artful (1)

by Wilbert Stanton

Genre(s): Dystopian
Pages: 218
Published: May 2014
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Official Summary: "New York City, 2025: Everything is changed. The city that never sleeps is now a land of death and decay. A rampant virus has taken over and the survivors have become carriers, quarantined from the rest of the world.

Twist and Dodger grew up in the streets, the sewers and underground tunnels - their playground. They aren't heroes. They just like attention; and stealing meds from the rich and giving them to the poor is their golden ticket.

On their latest raid, they unknowingly steal a cure that puts them square between the ailing Emperor of Manhattan and the war hungry Governor of Brooklyn and forces them on a quest into the darkest shadows of their putrefying world"

 Review:  An odd, yet unique blending of Oliver Twist and Robin Hood meets the movie Doomsday (which, in itself is a clash of other stories).  While I know the Oliver Twist and the Robin Hood parts are intentional (and even referred to in the book), the Doomsday feel is just what it personally reminded me heavily of while reading this.  Combine all this to a post-apocalyptic New York (just a short 11 years from when this book is written) and you get The Artful.

The story is shared from the aspect of Twist.  He and Dodger have been together for the past several years, since the were children.  The banded a group to together that stole 'meds' and supplies from the privileged few and shared them with those less fortunate.  Apparently the wealthy spent their time partying, doing drugs or having sex.  Otherwise they sat around bored, locked away in towers, safe from the sun.  While everyone else became scavengers and tried to survive by whatever means they could figure out.  Some stole, some became cannibals, thugs or religious nuts.  We meet them all in this book.
The first half of the book was quite slow but it does finally pick up but by that point there were already several parts that I did not like.  The main thing is the behavior of our lead characters and the constant sexual references.  I seriously could not go even a few pages without something coming up!  I realize they are teenagers but I want a story, not a sex diary and at times that is how this seemed.  If you have seen American Pie or Scary Movie this can go right alongside those in that sense (less the comedy).  It even comes across as a bit degrading at times.  While part of that does get straightened out later, it vexed me a lot at first.  
The other thing that drove me nuts were the constant cliches.  And those never ended.  they just kept on comin'!  I lost track of the eye rolls I gave this book.    Really wish parts were more original. 
Yet the premise kept me intrigued enough to keep going.  I had to understand what was going on.  Why were things still so bad with the sun when people are obviously wandering the streets and no longer dropping like flies yet the rich are still in hiding?  What is happening outside the quarantine zone. And how will our boys get out of the mess they find themselves in.  While some questions are answered, the big one about what was so horrible about the sunlight is never really explained very well.  The characters, especially Dodger, do grow on you after awhile but you really have to bear with it for the first 45% of the book before you can start to appreciate them.  At least, that is how it was for me.
Overall, it was a so-so read.  Not bad but I cannot say it was good either.  But a lot of that was for personal reasons. I do feel male audiences might appreciate this more.  I can think of a few college guys who might get a kick out of it.

*I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a fair, honest review.  All thoughts and opinions expressed are strictly my own*


  1. Kinda sounds interesting but a lil too all over the place for me. Just sounds like a free for all like Doomsday but almost like The Maze Runner with the boys aspect.

  2. I was intrigued by the Oliver Twist/Robin Hood aspect, but when you described the whole "teenage boy sex complex" scenario, I lost my interest. Seems like everyone is trying to find the next dystopian bestseller in the Hunger Games mode and most people aren't achieving it successfully.

  3. Hm, I am not sure that I am ready for another dystopian in my life but this one does sound interesting. I would love to know about the blend of Robin Hood and Oliver Twist because those are both stories I enjoy!


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