December 3, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Don Winslow’s City Of Dreams Is The Perfect Successor to City On Fire


HEADS UP! Being City Of Dreams is the second book in Don Winslow’s Danny Ryan series (City On Fire was #1); there may be spoilers. Proceed with caution.

City Of Dreams (Danny Ryan #2) By Don Winslow- Summary

Following the epic, ambitious, instant New York Times bestseller City on Fire comes the dramatic second novel, City of Dreams, in an epic crime trilogy from Don Winslow. Winslow is the number One internationally bestselling author of the Cartel trilogy ( The Power of the Dog, The Cartel, and The Border ).

Hollywood. The city where dreams are made. Danny Ryan is now on the run on the losing side of a bloody East Coast crime war. The Mafia, the cops, and the FBI all want him dead or in prison. So with his little boy, his elderly father, and the tattered remnants of his loyal crew of soldiers, he makes the classic American migration to California to start a new life—a quiet, peaceful existence.

But the Feds track him down and want Danny to do them a favor that could make him a fortune or kill him. And when Hollywood starts shooting a film based on his former life, Danny demands a piece of the action and begins to rebuild his criminal empire.

Then he falls in love, with a beautiful movie star who has a dark past of her own. As their worlds collide in an explosion that could destroy them both, Danny Ryan has to fight for his life in a city where dreams are born. Or where they go to die. From the shores of Rhode Island to the deserts of California where bodies disappear, from the power corridors of Washington where the real criminals operate to the fabled movie studios of Hollywood where the real money is made, City of Dreams is a sweeping saga of family, love, revenge, survival and the fierce reality behind the dream.

Don Winslow

Don Winslow’s City Of Dreams- Review

Don Winslow’s books are perfectly named. First, City On Fire (Danny Ryan #1) was FIRE. And now Winslow’s City Of Dreams is a dream to read. Is that a little on the nose? Maybe. But it is the utter truth. Winslow is able to manage a swift pace in the second book of a trilogy. Often the second book in trilogies serve to continue and solidify the overarching themes. Often, they don’t engage with readers. Winslow succeeds at both.

As I write this review, there is a major mid-west thunderstorm rolling into St. Louis and then cracked open. In comparison, City Of Dreams felt much the same way. It often felt like a foreboding, a sense of dread bubbling under the surface. No matter where the plot takes us you can see the thunderstorms on the horizon, chasing Danny Ryan. And then the sky opens and it crackles like fireworks.

The plot moves at a swift pace, even while providing short recaps from the first book, City On Fire. I like to say when books start off with a bang. Usually, it is metaphorical. In the case of City Of Dreams, it gets to the bang with a quickness. Continuously, from there, City Of Dreams takes off running, much like Danny. After confiscating and then dumping millions of dollars worth of heroin, and killing an FBI agent (arguably) in self-defense, Danny hits the road. Mind you, no one believes that he dumped the heroin. This leaves him being chased by the Moretti Family, the FBI, and the cops.

Once in California, Danny becomes quite the opportunist, taking deals from the feds, and Hollywood by storm. Despite trying to be better than his father and love after the dreadful death of his wife; no matter how hard he tries, Danny manages to step into holes that get deeper and deeper as he goes. In contrast, you can’t really say that Danny does himself any favors. He can’t stay still and falls in love with a Hollywood Starlet.

But nothing is more persistant, more patient than the past. Afterall, the past has nothing but time.


While Danny is the main character in this trilogy, there is a sizeable cast of both new and familiar characters. However, Winslow never falls into any of the possible pitfalls. Notably, he maintains/gives each character their own, unique voice. Different from other books, Winslow’s characters never combine in the reader’s head, becoming unrecognizable and non-essential, and leaving readers feeling overwhelmed. This would be easy for an oversaturation of characters. Yet, again, Winslow hits the mark.

Through the cast of characters, Winslow touches on heavy themes with deftness. As a result, themes such as family, death and grieving, codependent relationships, and suicide are all woven into the story. One could say there are a lot of “side plots,” but I would beg to differ. Through some dark humor, and the growth of overreaching story arcs, Winslow makes each and every story pertinent to the main plot line.

My daughter is a whack job, my wife hates me, I’m going fucking broke, m guys are about to mutiny. If this is winning a war? I’d hate to see what losing looks like.

City Of Dreams Setting

Don Winslow has multiple settings going at once. As such, the same pitfalls remain a possibility when you have such a large cast of characters. If not attended to with thought and precision, they could meld into one setting. And when you have places of such different atmospheres, like Hollywood and the East Coast? It is key that each becomes another character, living and breathing to match the story, character actions, and attitudes.

Winslow sticks the landing. Hollywood is all sunshine (but don’t forget those storms on the horizon, always chasing Danny), love, and movies. Meanwhile, when on the East Coast, it is a more overcast and down-trodden feel. One breaking molds, one living in them, presently, just as in the past.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t read City on Fire, you must. This is the truth. I read City On Fire and The Family around the same time. Maybe even back-to-back. Neither book is of a genre I normally read. However, something just told me to pick them up. And I’ve never been happier I did. Winslow continues to win my trust with City Of Dreams, a stellar follow-up.

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