Danyl was raised in the Middens, the trash dump far below The City, an encapsulated, multi-tiered community where the higher the tier, the better your station, and therefore, your existence. He was raised by a man named Erl and, although not his actual father, he taught him much about scavenging in the dangerous netherworld of The City. All Danyl longs for is a way up to The City, some fantastic piece of scavenged merchandise that could buy him a City Pass, but, so far, that has yet to happen. He has yet to really consider going beyond The City, although the Heartland, the dangerous Iron Ring, and the once beautiful, but now toxic, River all lie in wait as well.
In harsh contrast, Alania is the ward of Lieutenant Beruthi, living in splendor on the Twelfth Tier, where Officers and their families live. Although she doesn't have to scavenge as Danyl does, she lives in a gilded prison, almost never leaving the confines of Quarters Beruthi, and only then to attend some silly party with her wealthy friends. Lt. Beruthi is rarely there and she is mostly surrounded by the robots his company manufactures, along with the odd servant. She longs to explore the other tiers, but the grass is rarely greener on the other side.
The City, itself, is governed by First Officer Kranz, an imposing and dangerous man who answers only to The Captain, a woman rumored to be hundreds of years old, the only inhabitant of the Thirteenth Tier. His enforcers are the Provosts, armed men whose duty it is to keep The City running as it has for hundreds of years, with the lower classes kept to the lower tiers and those who seek to oppose the status quo being caught and imprisoned on the Tenth Tier, or worse, never heard from again.
Although their lives are drastically different, Danyl and Alania find themselves thrust together when Alania discovers on her 20th birthday that she is to go live with First Officer Kranz, although she has no idea why. During a failed kidnapping amidst her transfer to Quarters Kranz, she jumps into what she thinks is a safe spot, only to be dumped, quite literally, into the trash in the Middens, right in front of Danyl.
What he first thinks of as a possible way into The City soon becomes someone he cares deeply for, as he and Alania struggle to survive, between the Rustbloods and the Greenskulls, the gangs who roam the Middens, and the Provosts who are hunting Alania, and Danyl by association. What they don't realize is that they are both large cogs in rebellious plan that was set in motion during their infancy, and if they can work together, they might just be the secret to saving The City itself, which has been dying a slow death, as it has fallen into hideous disrepair over the years. There will be many surprises along the way, and danger at every turn and, although each of them longed for adventure, something tells me this isn't what they had in mind.
The Cityborn is a really intriguing sci-fi adventure and it kept me glued to the pages throughout the book. I couldn't wait to see the adventure play out, and while I can see the series continuing based on the events at the end of the book, it would also be a fitting ending if this was the end of the story (as this is supposed to be a one-off story). The story is well-written, interesting, and a nail-biting adventure. If you enjoy futuristic sci-fi with bits of cloning, nanobots, and memory overwrites, played out through the journey of two resourceful young people thrown into desperate situations, you'll enjoy The Cityborn.