I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of City of Secrets by Victoria Ying. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In the graphic novel City of Secrets, Victoria Ying tells the story of Ever, an orphaned boy who lives in a mechanical building called the Switchboard Operating Facility for the city of Oskars. There, he meets a girl named Hannah, who’s from the richer levels of this steampunk-inspired city. As they become better friends, they realize that their families have a long-standing connection. And as war with a neighboring city becomes imminent, they further realizes that this connection might be what saves everyone they know.
Hannah is a sweet character, very curious and clever. Ever is intelligent and solitary, due to his sad past. Neither are particularly groundbreaking in their personalities, but they are a fun duo to watch grow closer. I also liked the side characters such as Hannah’s father and Lisa.
I liked the city, and the Switchboard Operating Facility, and how the latter works—with gears and moving platforms and trick tunnels or trapdoors. I think some of the visuals weren’t entirely clear (but that could be due to my relative lack of familiarity with graphic novels), and I think seeing this as a short film would have been even better.
However, I found the storyline to be a bit simplistic and predictable, though it’s enough of an exciting, fast-paced adventure, particularly in the last quarter, that middle grade kids will enjoy it. And there are enough loose ends that this promises to be a series that expands the world introduced here and raise the stakes.
In the end, City of Secrets is an entertaining enough tale, with charming characters, a decently cool setting, and a fun adventure. I think middle schoolers who like fantasy or adventure will have a great time with this.
Overall rating: 8/10
City of Secrets will be published in July 2020!