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The City Beautiful

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Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.   But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.   But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.   Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next. Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.  


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Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.   But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.   But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.   Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next. Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.  

30 review for The City Beautiful

  1. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    wow. okay. totally was not expecting this to be as good as it is. but the combination of jewish mythology, murder mystery, and chicagos 1893 worlds fair is a real winner. i can think of maybe three other books ive read that have jewish main characters that arent set during WWII, so its nice to be able to add to that list. i really enjoyed alter as a character and connected with him right away. while the struggles he faces as a young jewish immigrant are something i will never experience, his dev wow. okay. totally was not expecting this to be as good as it is. but the combination of jewish mythology, murder mystery, and chicagos 1893 worlds fair is a real winner. i can think of maybe three other books ive read that have jewish main characters that arent set during WWII, so its nice to be able to add to that list. i really enjoyed alter as a character and connected with him right away. while the struggles he faces as a young jewish immigrant are something i will never experience, his devotion to his friends and family is wholly relatable. and although family and friendship are important themes, i would be remiss if i didnt mention how dark this story is. theres a lot of heavy and potentially triggering content, but i thought it suited the book. it feels authentic to the time period and makes alters hardships feel genuine. so glad i picked this one up! ↠ 4.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ayman

    ok first off check trigger warnings there's mention of rape, homophobia, anti semitism, gore, blood i think i covered the main ones. i fucking loved this book. it literally has a chokehold on me. it is the perfect book for spooky season. i was shivering in my timbers ngl. it was kind slow at times and a bit hard to get into but once you give it a chance you wont be able to put it down. i was gasping for air towards the end ok first off check trigger warnings there's mention of rape, homophobia, anti semitism, gore, blood i think i covered the main ones. i fucking loved this book. it literally has a chokehold on me. it is the perfect book for spooky season. i was shivering in my timbers ngl. it was kind slow at times and a bit hard to get into but once you give it a chance you wont be able to put it down. i was gasping for air towards the end

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Real Rating: 4.5* of five, rounded down because I'm still testy about YA reads I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU. My Review: I think there's nothing more delightful to me than queer representation in historical fiction. We were there, too, and deserve to be written into the zeitgeist. This is Young Adult queer representation in the 19th century, and in my ongoing quest not to die above the neck before I do below it, I got the DRC. I'm really very glad that I did...this re Real Rating: 4.5* of five, rounded down because I'm still testy about YA reads I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU. My Review: I think there's nothing more delightful to me than queer representation in historical fiction. We were there, too, and deserve to be written into the zeitgeist. This is Young Adult queer representation in the 19th century, and in my ongoing quest not to die above the neck before I do below it, I got the DRC. I'm really very glad that I did...this read was a great pleasure to me. The use of Jewish folk cultural touchstones...matchmakers, dybbuks being the most horrifying...the sprinkings of Yiddish, the focus...fierce focus...on family and loyalty, were all tastes of delight for this reader. The author doesn't spend inordinate time explaining things but he does provide context and some factual stuff for the more, um, ethnocentric stuff. It is a sheer joy to see the story being set away from a) World War II, b) New York's Lower East Side, or c) the shtetl somewhere in Eastern Europe. The Jewish population of Chicago has never been teensy...the Great Lakes ports were as much a destination as New York, but they get less play. I'm also, since I read The Devil in the White City and read The Man Who Made Parks: The Story of Parkbuilder Frederick Law Olmsted by Frieda Wishinsky to my oldest grandson, a big aficionado of the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition (aka "the White City") in Chicago. That venue plays quite a role in this murder mystery, though exactly how and why shall remain a secret lest I be set upon by spoilerphobes next time I go grocery shopping. What I will say is that the squeamish should not pick the book up. There are graphic moments of bloodyness, there are awful physical violences, and of course the element of supernatural possession can't be left out. There are more 21st-century concerns like homophobia and anti-semitism (this last pervades the end of the book to a sometimes uncomfortable degree), but this is Spooktober! A few scares, some terrible spooky goins-on, that is what this month is for! Be prepared, also, for the politics of the book. It's solidly anti-capitalist, despite MC Alter's determination to earn earn earn so he can bring his mother and sisters to the Promised Land...Chicago! imagine...because that's really situational not aspirational capitalism. And Alter's failed match-cum-bestie, young Raizel from downstairs in his apartment building, is there to keep him from falling *too* deep into capitalism's cess pit. (She is, in fact, one of the book's most delightful characters, propensity to splash tea onto laps notwithstanding.) Putting on my YA-unlover's hat, the usual prolixity...why say in ten words what can make an entire chapter?...is fully present, the stakes are APOCALYPTIC ZOMG THE UNIVERSE WILL END!! and that gets really tiring to an old fart like me who knows that, after I and you and the author are all dead the planet will keep spinning on. Probably all the better for our absence. But that is an elderly person speaking, the audience that's here for YA is going to *eat*this*up* because every one of the elements are handled with aplomb and without the edge of tweeness I've reacted to in other YA books like they're coated in cat dander. I don't at all recommend giving this to a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old. The realities of sexual abuse aren't in any way soft-pedaled. The realities of sexual desire, that it doesn't obey rules or orders, are best left to the older end of the YA spectrum, which I think of as sixteen and up. I know y'all know y'all's kids better than I do, so understand I'm speaking in generalities and not prescribing anything. The mystery aspect of the story, the resolution to the murders and disappearances of Jewish boys, is very well-handled and was solidly made in serious mystery form. If you're up for it, match wits with the author; if you're not, read the spooky book or the coming-out (sort of!) book or the immigrant-makes-it book. They're all here. I think my point should be clear: Read The City Beautiful. It will please at least 80% of the folks who read my reviews.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    Set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, this queer Jewish gothic fantasy follows a young immigrant, Alter, who is possessed by the dybbuk of his murdered best friend and is thrust into a deadly hunt for a serial killer. OMG YES Set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, this queer Jewish gothic fantasy follows a young immigrant, Alter, who is possessed by the dybbuk of his murdered best friend and is thrust into a deadly hunt for a serial killer. OMG YES

  5. 4 out of 5

    anna (½ of readsrainbow)

    rep: Romanian Jewish gay mc, Lithuanian Jewish gay li, Ukrainian Jewish gay li, Jewish characters tw: antisemitism, mentions of past rape, mentions of past pedophilia, body horror (chapter 42), blood, gore, violence, murder, drowning, vomiting, fire, immolation rtc

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Gonzales

    Set during the 1893 Chicago World Fair, The City Beautiful is a gripping, fast-paced book that expertly marries thriller and murder mystery. Polydoros is not afraid to tear aside the façade of beauty and civility to confront the darkest aspects of human nature, no holds barred. The resulting book is something truly special. (For real this is really really good guys. It's FUUUUNNNN to read, though don't get me wrong, it's not a lighthearted read! It's one of those stories that feels big.) Set during the 1893 Chicago World Fair, The City Beautiful is a gripping, fast-paced book that expertly marries thriller and murder mystery. Polydoros is not afraid to tear aside the façade of beauty and civility to confront the darkest aspects of human nature, no holds barred. The resulting book is something truly special. (For real this is really really good guys. It's FUUUUNNNN to read, though don't get me wrong, it's not a lighthearted read! It's one of those stories that feels big.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Glenn Marsh

    Official Comments: Like a darkly compelling dream; I dare readers to try to put down this queer triumph of a book where myth, mystery, and death lurk around every corner of the Windy City. Unofficial: Freaking fantastic book. Get ready!!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    rachel ☾

    Set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, this queer Jewish gothic fantasy follows a young immigrant, Alter, who is possessed by the dybbuk of his murdered best friend and is thrust into a deadly hunt for a serial killer. Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram Set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, this queer Jewish gothic fantasy follows a young immigrant, Alter, who is possessed by the dybbuk of his murdered best friend and is thrust into a deadly hunt for a serial killer. Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lexi

    This is an incredibly hard book to rate, so please take my rating with a grain of salt. Overview 🆗 Queer rep (MLM) ♥️ Jewish rep 🆗 Mystery/suspense 🆗 Period piece 🆗 Dead boyfriend 🆗 Some fantasy elements The City Beautiful is a mystery period piece about Alter, a Jewish immigrant from Romania. When his close friend (whom he was in love with) is killed, he goes on a journey to uncover what actually happened to him. As far as my overall enjoyment, I often found myself disengaging from this story, but I w This is an incredibly hard book to rate, so please take my rating with a grain of salt. Overview 🆗 Queer rep (MLM) ♥️ Jewish rep 🆗 Mystery/suspense 🆗 Period piece 🆗 Dead boyfriend 🆗 Some fantasy elements The City Beautiful is a mystery period piece about Alter, a Jewish immigrant from Romania. When his close friend (whom he was in love with) is killed, he goes on a journey to uncover what actually happened to him. As far as my overall enjoyment, I often found myself disengaging from this story, but I wanted to talk about some notable elements of it that make it worth picking up. This story is unapologetically Jewish- with the man character being nearly incapable of speaking English and Jewish verbiage and cultural elements peppered into the story aggressively. While some readers may struggle to pick up on some of this, as someone with a cultural link to both Judaism and Romania, I found this really charming. The author clearly lives in or spent a decent amount of time in Chicago as well- he does a great job talking about the city and incorporating historic elements of the Jewish population into the story. The queer rep was....weird. It was GOOD, don't get me wrong, and it discusses homosexuality and Judaism, but I overall did not enjoy Alter's relationships with other boys. He instantly falls in love with multiple male characters and doesn't have an interesting bond with them. the romance could have been MUCH BETTER. The other characters provide some elements of intrigue, though chiefly, this is a story about the murder of an underclass. It came out around the same time as Summer Sons and Red X, both featuring the deaths of queer men in a society that devalues them. Like Summer Sons, The City Beautiful also features a young man uncovering the secrets of the dead friend/object of his affection. In both cases, this bond is rather codependent and elements of the relationship are uncovered after death. This book is unique and certainly stands out in a crowd, providing a diverse perspective for a historical thriller, as well as peppering in some myth and magic from Jewish culture. If you enjoy these types of books, along with queer thrillers in general, it is worth your time. As a final note, skip the audiobook of this one. The narrator is not good.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rogier

    The City Beautiful takes place at the backdrop of The 1893 Chicago. The White City. Alter Rosen, a Romanian Jewish guy has lived in the US close to 3 years now working at a low paying job to have his mother and little sisters brought over to escaping oppression in Europe. This is an amazing book about Jewish immigrant life in the US with a gothic horror core. A friend found dead possesses him to act revenge. Yakov 's Dybbuk is angry, antagonistic and yet you feel sympathy for this lost soul. You The City Beautiful takes place at the backdrop of The 1893 Chicago. The White City. Alter Rosen, a Romanian Jewish guy has lived in the US close to 3 years now working at a low paying job to have his mother and little sisters brought over to escaping oppression in Europe. This is an amazing book about Jewish immigrant life in the US with a gothic horror core. A friend found dead possesses him to act revenge. Yakov 's Dybbuk is angry, antagonistic and yet you feel sympathy for this lost soul. You get to experience horror filled imagery which is full of Jewish lore and mythology. But the real life horrors are more terrifying: the exploiting of workers, the reasoning of killer, how discrimination is systemic and chilling how individuals see others as filth. A warning , the anti-Semitism is intense 80% into the book, it is mentioned in the dialog of two chapters. I loved how Jewish this book, the customs, the food , faith and everyday life. The City Beautiful is a part thriller and murder mystery with but seeing Jewish life is really special. WW2 novels are important but I'm glad that publishing pushed out more non WW Jewish fiction. The action scenes and character building moments were well paced. The plot has a medium paced and it will be a disservice to you and the story heading in for the action. The action is intense but the characters matter more. Every page was needed to tell this story. I adored Alter, Frankie and Raizel so much. I'd would love to be in their company. Each had a great arch but Alter has to be my favorite, embracing himself fully as a person and being queer , dealing with survivors guilt and not losing his kindness after the much needed self defense. Alter and Frankie are have faults, have messy feelings, are angry, have violent moments and are not desexualized gay guys. I'm so happy that they don't fit in the squeaky clean mold that popular YA media portrays. They showed love, passion and lust as much possible in a YA novel. Frankie is the 'bad boy' from Alter's past. Frankie has a lot of trauma and it's respectfully written and mentioned. If I would label attach a trope to their romance it would be rekindled friends to lovers. Aden Polydoros is 100% an autobuy author of mine after finishing The City Beautiful. Gah, I hope people read it. They are totally different but i had the same joy after finishing it I had with cemetery boys. I can't wait for the Bone Weaver next year, the MG the year after that and many others in years to come, I speak it into existence. READ THE CITY BEAUTIFUL for well researched historical life in Jewish ghettos, a well plotted story, a sweet romance that gradually builds , great rounded characters and a male lead that you want to hug immediately. 💖💖

  11. 4 out of 5

    nemo the emo ☠️ (pagesandprozac)

    JEWISH? QUEER? HISTORICAL? GOTHIC?!?!?!?!?!?!??!! JEWISH? QUEER? HISTORICAL? GOTHIC?!?!?!?!?!?!??!!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    The City Beautiful is a unique take of the events that happened during the World Fair in Chicago. This is perfect for any fan of the stories of Jack the Ripper or of H.H Holmes. But, what is really unique and is the star of the show of this book is the usage of Jewish culture and our Jewish protagonist. Aden Polydoros does such a good job at combining Jewish paranormal and the ominous aura that Chicago had at that time to create a gory read. I also have to give credit to Polydoros to have used hi The City Beautiful is a unique take of the events that happened during the World Fair in Chicago. This is perfect for any fan of the stories of Jack the Ripper or of H.H Holmes. But, what is really unique and is the star of the show of this book is the usage of Jewish culture and our Jewish protagonist. Aden Polydoros does such a good job at combining Jewish paranormal and the ominous aura that Chicago had at that time to create a gory read. I also have to give credit to Polydoros to have used historical events that demonstrated hatred of Jews. There are so many people that presume that the racism that the Jews have faced is solely from the holocaust when it happened in so many other places. So thank you for using your book to shed some light on it. For people that are intimidated about reading paranormal from a culture that you might not fully know. There is a glossary at the end of the book that gives a good explanation of Jewish terms. My only real critic for this novel is that the pacing isn't constant. There are a few times where you do get a little bored. But it does pick up a chapter or two later. It doesn't help that the book is on the longer side. Overall, wonderful representation, good use of historical events but the thrill wasn't constant. Thank you, NetGalley, Inkyard Press, and Aden Polydoros for the arc! Ps, this book is delightfully queer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dahlia

    "The City Beautiful is the haunting, queer Jewish historical thriller of my darkest dreams." —Dahlia Adler, creator of LGBTQ Reads and editor of That Way Madness Lies "The City Beautiful is the haunting, queer Jewish historical thriller of my darkest dreams." —Dahlia Adler, creator of LGBTQ Reads and editor of That Way Madness Lies

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This was an enjoyable historical mystery (although the crimes themselves were harrowing) set in the time of Chicago’s World Fair and focusing on the Jewish community. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of a fantasy element.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle | Nine Tale Vixen

    I received an advance review copy from Inkyard Press through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest. DNF @ 23% If you like the sound of queer Jewish historical fantasy, this book delivers on all those elements from the opening. The protagonist is a hardworking immigrant from Romania, a dedicated member of his local Jewish community, with an interesting past: exactly the kind of hero I want to root for. Personally the prose and pacing just didn't click for me (I'm a very picky reader with a I received an advance review copy from Inkyard Press through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest. DNF @ 23% If you like the sound of queer Jewish historical fantasy, this book delivers on all those elements from the opening. The protagonist is a hardworking immigrant from Romania, a dedicated member of his local Jewish community, with an interesting past: exactly the kind of hero I want to root for. Personally the prose and pacing just didn't click for me (I'm a very picky reader with a very long TBR, so I tend to DNF accordingly), but I bet it'll be a hit with many readers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kylie Lee Baker

    A gorgeous, breathtaking journey. I felt like I was in a trance taking in all the rich details, and the adventure kept me turning pages. I’m 100% going to buy anything else Polydoros writes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Aly

    3.5 stars In the author's note, he says that growing up if he read a book featuring Jewish characters it was set in the Holocaust and he wanted to show other aspects of Jewish culture. I agree that there aren't enough books showcasing this and was happy to check this one out. I learned a lot about the death rituals and beliefs about spirits and it was all pretty cool! I liked Alter a lot, he's sweet and just trying to work hard so his mom and sisters can join him in America. He's also gay, but ter 3.5 stars In the author's note, he says that growing up if he read a book featuring Jewish characters it was set in the Holocaust and he wanted to show other aspects of Jewish culture. I agree that there aren't enough books showcasing this and was happy to check this one out. I learned a lot about the death rituals and beliefs about spirits and it was all pretty cool! I liked Alter a lot, he's sweet and just trying to work hard so his mom and sisters can join him in America. He's also gay, but terrified for anyone to find out because he'd be an outcast. His relationship with Frankie is up and down, but I was glad he had an ally when all the craziness started. The pacing is all over the place and made it a bit difficult to engage in the story. It was slow, then crazy, slow, climax, slow, last climax. I'd like it more if the plot evened out a bit and also if there was a bit more romance. I still thought this was a good book and the narrator for the audiobook did a great job with the accents and languages.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shelf Blame

    Thank you Inkyard Press for the ARC of this book! The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros is a queer gothic fantasy that'll have you desperate to read just one more page to get to the bottom of the mysteries that slowly unravel. Alter Rosen is a Jewish immigrant from Romani in 1893 Chicago. Having fled his home country amid the anti-jewish sentiment spreading in Europe, Alter is trying his best to make enough to support himself and to bring his family over to the states. Keep your head down. Do hones Thank you Inkyard Press for the ARC of this book! The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros is a queer gothic fantasy that'll have you desperate to read just one more page to get to the bottom of the mysteries that slowly unravel. Alter Rosen is a Jewish immigrant from Romani in 1893 Chicago. Having fled his home country amid the anti-jewish sentiment spreading in Europe, Alter is trying his best to make enough to support himself and to bring his family over to the states. Keep your head down. Do honest work. Be a good mensch. He tries anyway until a boy he loves is killed, and he's determined to unwrap the mystery. He soon discovers Yakov's murder could be linked to the mysterious disappearances of other Jewish boys in his neighborhood. Then, a nightmare: Alter is possessed by Yakov's dybbuk and has to avenge him before his own soul is lost forever. This is a historical fantasy, but something about that term just doesn't feel right to me. It's dark and twisty and feels more like a thriller to me. I love the way Polydoros weaves this story together with so many themes - Jewish lore, racism, xenophobia, working conditions of late 19th century US, queer yearning rubbing raw against the pull of religion. There's so much going on in this book, and it works so well together. The mystery will keep you on your toes. I couldn't put this book down in some parts because I was on the edge of my seat. The imagery of the Chicago World's Fair as the backdrop to these disgusting crimes, what was supposed to be a symbol of hope and progress in the US, is the juxtaposition this book thrives on. I loved Alter as a character, I loved Frankie as a character, I loved Raziel as a character. They're all so well done and well fleshed out, and I adored Alter's relationship with both of them. His relationship with Frankie was often fraught with guilt and anger and longing so deep, it hurt to read sometimes. So well done. Why 4 stars instead of 5? The dialogue in a few of the scenes felt a little forced and out of place, and honestly, the book could've ended about 100 pages before it actually did. It's twisty towards the end, but I think it could've used a touch less twist. Overall, really fantastic read, and I'll recommend it to everyone!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Louise

    A killer stalks the streets of Chicago. A killer who preys upon young Jewish immigrants. It is a dangerous time to be alive as Alter Rosen recent Jewish immigrant from Romania well knows. Living in the slums and tenements along Maxwell street, Alter struggles to make enough money to keep himself alive as well as bring over his mother and sisters from Romania. But life isn't all struggle, he's got friends. Particularly the gentle and kind Yakov who Alter loves dearly. But when Yakov is brutally m A killer stalks the streets of Chicago. A killer who preys upon young Jewish immigrants. It is a dangerous time to be alive as Alter Rosen recent Jewish immigrant from Romania well knows. Living in the slums and tenements along Maxwell street, Alter struggles to make enough money to keep himself alive as well as bring over his mother and sisters from Romania. But life isn't all struggle, he's got friends. Particularly the gentle and kind Yakov who Alter loves dearly. But when Yakov is brutally murdered, Alter's life changes. Now possessed by a Dybbuk of his slain friend, Alter joins forces with a boy from his past to hunt down a vicious killer before it's too late and Alter is fully consumed. -- Set against the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, The City Beautiful is an oftentimes deep and disturbing glimpse into the world of that time. The city is dirty and corrupt, crawling with con-men and tricksters who are eager and willing to take advantage of the arriving immigrants. This is the city that so many people came to seeking a better life only to find more poverty and strife. This is the city that played home to H.H. Holmes as well as inspired Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle." And because of that this book needs a heap-ton of trigger warnings. Triggers for the following: Child Sexual Assault/Rape, Character Death, Antisemitism, racism, classism, xenophobia, graphic descriptions of blood and gore, graphic descriptions of funerary practices, homophobia, sexism, misogyny, general cruelty, and more I'm definitely missing. Please make sure you're in a good place before reading this book. Because this is a good book. While the subject matter is definitely outside my usual fare, it's well-researched story about Jewish Immigrant Life in America in the late 19th century with very mystical/horror elements. And it's definitely horror. At times this book reminded me of Stephen King's "It" mixed with Lovecraft Country. I liked the fact that this featured an LGBT chararacter who is still coming to terms with that that means for him. It's realistic for a time and culture where homosexuality is very much looked down upon and even punished. And this story is a romance. While Alter's first love does die as a catalyst to the overarching plot, there is a very nice slow burn second chance romance between Alter and a sort of Artful Dodger-like character named Frankie. And I did like Frankie. He's tempter, while Alter is the atoner. It's and interesting mix. However, my favorite character was Raizel, one of Alter's friends from the tenement where he lives. She's a reformer who wants to be a reporter and it's nice to see a solid Male/Female friendship in YA. Especially a LGBT one -- where members of the opposite sex are often denigrated. She's got her own goals and she's not a shrinking violet. I kind of love her. LOL That said, the book isn't perfect. It's a very slow start with some uneven pacing between the 10 and 40% marks. After the 50% mark the story picks up and it's a nice ride to the end. Looking back on it, I can see why the author took the time to set the scene and lay out the clues, but it wasn't apparent on the first read through. That said, this book definitely has re-read value... so that's something. In all, I enjoyed this book despite it taking me several months to read. So I'm going to give this... Four stars I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

  20. 5 out of 5

    T.B. Caine

    Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for giving me an ARC! That doesn't affect my review in any way. First: yes this is a 3 stars from me, but I legit think its just a me thing and not a book thing. I can tell a lot of the YA audience is already loving it, so obviously it just didn't click with me. My favorite part of the book was probably Raizel and I wish we got more of her! I also did like the mystery element that is what is pushing the story forward throughout. Even though that is our ma Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for giving me an ARC! That doesn't affect my review in any way. First: yes this is a 3 stars from me, but I legit think its just a me thing and not a book thing. I can tell a lot of the YA audience is already loving it, so obviously it just didn't click with me. My favorite part of the book was probably Raizel and I wish we got more of her! I also did like the mystery element that is what is pushing the story forward throughout. Even though that is our main conflict it felt like the novel was split 50/50 between the plot and character growth for Alter. That isn't a bad thing! However I was hoping for more leaning on the mystery side and less on the character side. Yes, there is queer romance in this, but I wouldn't go out to grab this JUST for the romance aspect. It isn't a major plot element, though it is quite clear that they are together. There are only a few scenes that I would call "romantic". This isn't a critique either, just a warning for those getting this. It IS mostly focused on the mystery/character as I stated. There is romance, but it is definitely like the C or D plot. Not the main focus. Honestly where I think this wasn't a hit for me was pacing (and again the fact that I just don't think this worked for me). There were a few points where I felt like it had been awhile since the plot had gotten a push so certain parts did definitely feel much slower compared to the rest. Whereas for me, also the big climatic final chapters ALSO felt kinda sluggish to read. Maybe its just a me thing but I just wasn't getting as much OOMPF as I was hoping. Another issue is the fact the possession isn't explictly stated until the book is almost half over. That is a LONG time for a synopsis point to not be hit/addressed. Like yes we know something is amiss, but it felt so obvious because we as readers know what the problem is. And yet our main cast hadn't gotten to that point yet. I think part of it is just the length which made it feel like it took extra long. (The book is almost 500 pages so 40% is roughly 200 pages in, and we still hadn't gotten possession confirmation). This was an entertaining and informative time, but I don't know if I'll read it again (actually, who knows maybe now that I am more aware of the plot focus I'd be able to enjoy it more???). Definitely pick this up if you want to read historical fiction focused on Jewish characters, with a spooky mystery that also manages to hit on some heavy themes.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    Set during the World’s Fair in 1893, this atmospheric, queer Jewish historical fantasy infuses real-life events with a dark murder mystery. I’ve read several of this author’s other books, and The City Beautiful was on my list of most anticipated releases this year. It surpassed my expectations. After tragically losing his father during the journey to America, Alter falls in with the wrong crowd is soon scraping by robbing others. It’s not something he’s proud of, and after a particularly unsettli Set during the World’s Fair in 1893, this atmospheric, queer Jewish historical fantasy infuses real-life events with a dark murder mystery. I’ve read several of this author’s other books, and The City Beautiful was on my list of most anticipated releases this year. It surpassed my expectations. After tragically losing his father during the journey to America, Alter falls in with the wrong crowd is soon scraping by robbing others. It’s not something he’s proud of, and after a particularly unsettling experience he leaves his criminal days behind and gets an honest job. He works long, hard hours to save enough money to bring his mother and sisters over from Romania. When his best friend, Yakov is the latest victim in a string of murdered Jewish boys, Alter finds himself in the middle of a mystery not many seem to care about. The police aren’t much help and the newspapers all but dismiss the murders, but he refuses to let his Yakov’s death go ignored and unsolved. With the help of his friends Frankie and Raizel, Alter is determined to discover who’s responsible. Yakov’s dybbuk is equally determined and possesses Alter’s body. Time is of the essence in discovering the identity of the murderer because former friend or not, two souls can’t inhabit one body for long and the possession takes a toll on Alter. Sadly lacking in knowledge of Judaism, learning more about Jewish customs and traditions was incredibly compelling and enlightening. A glossary is included at the end of the book for help with some of the terminology. The author skillfully weaves those customs and traditions along with historic details involving Jewish immigration during that time into the story. He also touches on the racist themes of the World’s Fair and how The White City wasn’t the utopia the organizers portrayed. This novel is dark and disturbing at times, but it’s also a beautiful story of love, friendship, community, and justice. As a trigger warning, it doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of anti-Semitism and social inequities so be prepared. I can’t wait to see what this author does next – he’s been on my auto-buy list for years. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    4.5 Stars Content Warnings at end of book. Thank you to Netgalley and Inkyard Press for an arc of this book. When Alter's roommate ends up dead during the World's Fair in 1893 Chicago, Alter knows that it wasn't the accident the police are claiming it was. A string of deaths and disappearances of young Jewish boys are cropping up over the city. To make matters worse, ever since his friend's death, Alter has been experiencing hallucinations and black outs that leave all-too-real marks on his body. H 4.5 Stars Content Warnings at end of book. Thank you to Netgalley and Inkyard Press for an arc of this book. When Alter's roommate ends up dead during the World's Fair in 1893 Chicago, Alter knows that it wasn't the accident the police are claiming it was. A string of deaths and disappearances of young Jewish boys are cropping up over the city. To make matters worse, ever since his friend's death, Alter has been experiencing hallucinations and black outs that leave all-too-real marks on his body. He is determined to find out what really happened and put his friend's spirit to rest. Wow, this book was mysterious and tense throughout! It took me a little ways to get into it, but once I did I was completely addicted! Alter is such a sympathetic character and I loved following his point of view as he discovered what was really going on in the City. I also....I am in love with Frankie. I'm sorry, but he is perfect. He is like.... a slightly-less-traumatized Kaz Brekker but also gay. Yup. I'm in love. The prose in this book was beautiful and I truly loved it! Pub Date: Oct 5, 2021 Content Warnings Graphic: Body horror, Child death, Child abuse, Death, Gun violence, Violence, Racial slurs, Racism, Antisemitism, Blood, Fire/Fire injury, Murder, and Hate crime Moderate: Sexual assault, Sexual violence, Genocide, Death of parent, Rape, and Pedophilia

  23. 5 out of 5

    willowdog

    Polydoros' description and the handling of his setting for his novel (Chicago and the White City of the World's Fair of 1893) is worth the read. He transports you to the era of stockyards, Jewish immigration to the area, Maxwell Street and the infamous Levee. And within this setting, he places an interesting mystery surrounding the murder of a number of young Jews. His characters are not typical and make this read so very interesting. The leading characters are gay! (I've never read a work that Polydoros' description and the handling of his setting for his novel (Chicago and the White City of the World's Fair of 1893) is worth the read. He transports you to the era of stockyards, Jewish immigration to the area, Maxwell Street and the infamous Levee. And within this setting, he places an interesting mystery surrounding the murder of a number of young Jews. His characters are not typical and make this read so very interesting. The leading characters are gay! (I've never read a work that makes this subject so natural in the 1890's.) Of course, the rich history of the anarchist movement in the city is highlighted. The rich customs and traditions of the Jewish population and the history of the reasons for their immigration from Europe is well worked into the mystery. His use of the Jewish folklore 'dybbuk' is fascinating, and he uses it very effectively, but I found this to be the weakest part of the novel. I just wasn't ready for the fantasy. Thanks to Edelweiss/Above the Treeline for this free electronic version in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Katz

    This novel is *incredibly* good. Starring a queer, Jewish narrator who has immigrated from Romania and is now living in in 1893 Chicago, this is an intense historical/paranormal thriller that's incredibly hard to put down -- even when I figured out the culprit, I was frantically turning pages to see what would happen on the way to our protagonist Alter figuring it out. Everything in this story comes out of its Jewishness in a way that I don't find in a lot of fiction (especially, as the author p This novel is *incredibly* good. Starring a queer, Jewish narrator who has immigrated from Romania and is now living in in 1893 Chicago, this is an intense historical/paranormal thriller that's incredibly hard to put down -- even when I figured out the culprit, I was frantically turning pages to see what would happen on the way to our protagonist Alter figuring it out. Everything in this story comes out of its Jewishness in a way that I don't find in a lot of fiction (especially, as the author pointed out, in fiction that's not explicitly about the Holocaust). It's an unflinching look at antisemitism, at diaspora, at the feelings of not belonging or of being othered in whatever land you're in. But it has hope in here too, it has *community*, and it has care for each other, living and dead. I'd recommend this to pretty much everyone I now. Really a fantastic read. Alter is a great protagonist, and Frankie and Raizel both had me completely charmed by them. (Definitely also read the author notes at the end for a look into the research.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Dickey

    UM THIS WAS SO GOOD. Thank you so much to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an E-arc, I can't wait to put this in customers' hands when it comes out! This book has a lot of pretty common themes - a murder mystery/serial killer, a 'steampunk' historical setting, etc. However, it's all brought to the next level with the inclusion of an amazing Jewish main character, Alter, who was absolutely exceptional to read from. There is some horrifying anti-Semitism in this story, but in a wa UM THIS WAS SO GOOD. Thank you so much to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an E-arc, I can't wait to put this in customers' hands when it comes out! This book has a lot of pretty common themes - a murder mystery/serial killer, a 'steampunk' historical setting, etc. However, it's all brought to the next level with the inclusion of an amazing Jewish main character, Alter, who was absolutely exceptional to read from. There is some horrifying anti-Semitism in this story, but in a way that felt very accurate to the time. There's also some excellent Jewish folklore/mythology woven in, which I cannot speak to in terms of representation but which was wonderful to learn about. I can't even quite put into words why I loved this so much, but it was genuinely wonderful and I am still thinking about Alter days later!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emma Cathryne

    This is a dark, gorgeous novel chock full of Jewish history and tradition set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World Fair. I've never been to Chicago, let alone Chicago at the turn of the 19th century, but Aden Polydoros brings the city to life in all of its grit, ugliness, and tenacious beauty. I could smell the stink of the factories, and feel the icy chill blowing off Lake Michigan. Polydoros is a phenomenal prose writer: I loved his ability to eerily blend reality and dream as Yakov' This is a dark, gorgeous novel chock full of Jewish history and tradition set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World Fair. I've never been to Chicago, let alone Chicago at the turn of the 19th century, but Aden Polydoros brings the city to life in all of its grit, ugliness, and tenacious beauty. I could smell the stink of the factories, and feel the icy chill blowing off Lake Michigan. Polydoros is a phenomenal prose writer: I loved his ability to eerily blend reality and dream as Yakov's memories begin to bleed into Alter's waking life following his murder. More importantly, this novel spoke to me deeply as the half-Jewish descendent of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. Though my father's Orthodox family set up in Philidelphia, not Chicago, the awful anti-semitism and difficult transition that Alter and his friends suffer echo a familiar tone passed down through our histories. Still, I loved that this novel was ultimately a beautiful homage to Jewish religion and culture, uplifting the power of faith and tradition as much as it draws attention to the vast history of atrocities visited upon the Jewish people. Even better, it was a touching take on the intersection between Judaism and queerness. Frankie in particular had several excellent lines highlighting how religion doesn't have to exist in opposition to loving who you choose. The characters were brilliant: Frankie, Alter, and Raizel, and the plot meaningful and intriguing. To me, this novel represents the very peak of the YA genre, emphasizing that authors don't have to pull punches on content and complexity to create relatable characters speaking to universal teenage struggles of identity, trust, and growing up.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of The City Beautiful in exchange for an honest review. I always say the reason I claim not to like historical fic is because of the typical emphasis on gender-role based m/f relationships so when I heard The City Beautiful was a queer historical fiction, I was really excited to check it out and it definitely didn't disappoint. Alter has been living his life under the radar, waiting until he saves up enough money to bring his family over from Romania Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of The City Beautiful in exchange for an honest review. I always say the reason I claim not to like historical fic is because of the typical emphasis on gender-role based m/f relationships so when I heard The City Beautiful was a queer historical fiction, I was really excited to check it out and it definitely didn't disappoint. Alter has been living his life under the radar, waiting until he saves up enough money to bring his family over from Romania to America but when the boy he was secretly in love with winds up dead, he finds a sinister pattern of disappearing or dead Jewish boys. Plot wise, this is about as fantastic as that sounds, plus a lot of gothic vibes through the (maybe) use of possession and ghosts. It's also childhood friends to enemies back to friends to lovers which I will maintain is the best relationship dynamic until the day I die. A few scenes here lagged when compared to its faster paced ones but other than that, this was really well done.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katrina♡••

    4.5 * I loved this one. I loved everything from the gothic setting to horrific subplots and just the overall creepy undertone. I have to say though, my favorite parts were about the dyybuk and all the scenes at the mikveh, including when simple sentences gave me the shivers. I also learnt so much from this novel and i will definitely be doing my own research on topics mentioned. I love the characters and the setting so much i wish there will be more books written about this. Highly recommended

  29. 5 out of 5

    The Nerd Daily

    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Mimi Koehler All in all, The City Beautiful is an immersive and chilling mystery thriller—with an entrancing main character, complex depictions of queerness and community and transportive prose, Polydoros delivers an uncanny and sinister story that will keep readers guessing to the very end. Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Mimi Koehler All in all, The City Beautiful is an immersive and chilling mystery thriller—with an entrancing main character, complex depictions of queerness and community and transportive prose, Polydoros delivers an uncanny and sinister story that will keep readers guessing to the very end. Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alexis (Lexi.84.02)

    DNFing for now. Waiting for a chance for a audio version to help with the Jewish words and language.

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