DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY by Amanda Foody
Rating: ★ ★ ★
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.
Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.
Daughter of the Burning City quickly reached the top of my TBR once it came on my radar. I haven’t read a lot of books set in carnivals but I’ve always wanted to, and knowing this had a diverse cast of characters too, I was immediately sold. Unfortunately, my expectations were a little too high for this one and I felt let down by pacing issues, story development & plot/worldbuilding holes.
For the most part, I really liked most of the characters, though I do have to say that I feel everyone other than Sorina were a little underdeveloped. Since this is told in first person, I definitely felt more of a connection to Sorina than to any other characters. I loved her determination to find who has been killing her family members, I loved her resilience and her strength and overall she just felt like a very realistic character. Whilst I felt that most of the side characters were kind of underdeveloped, I did actually like them all, though I wish we got to see more of them throughout the book.
Speaking of characters, I loved the casual diversity of this book. Our main character, Sorina, explicitly states multiple times that she’s interested in men and women. It was stated explicitly that Nicoleta prefers women and that Luca is not interested in sex, and that for attraction and romance to happen, he has to care about the person first. I cannot comment on the representation, so when I find some reviews from aroace readers and other ownvoices reviewers, I will link them in this review.
I really loved the atmosphere of the book & thought that Gomorrah was a really interesting, unique setting. However I felt that the world-building was really lacking. I often found myself confused about the politics of the world regarding Up-Mountainers & Down-Mountainers and also felt that the magic system (jynx work) was lazily explained. The answer to how people’s jynx work worked was basically that people didn’t have a great understand of how it worked, it just… did. Also, out main character doesn’t have any eyes and it was explained that she can see through her illusions, however she was not constantly using illusions but could see so… I was very confused. There were also a couple times I was left confused re: Sorina having no eyes, such a line that said she narrowed her eyes (though she doesn’t have any) and lines talking about being close to tears, though since she has no eyes she cannot produce them.
WARNING: SPOILER. I also felt that the plot twist around Luca didn’t make a lot of sense. It’s talked about a few times in the book that Sorina can feel threads to her illusions, so I don’t really understand how she didn’t feel her threads to Luca. END SPOILER.
Most of the reason I didn’t love this book as much as I thought I would is because of the plot/pacing. I was really intrigued by the idea of a murder mystery where the victims aren’t actually real people. It as an awesome idea and the high stakes of the synopsis saying that Sorina’s illusions were being killed off one by one added to the intrigue of the plot. However I found the entire thing lacking. For starters, I just feel like the pacing was off, and it probably would have kept me more engaged had another illusion died sooner. We had 2 illusions die within the first 100 or so pages, and then it was 200 pages later until another died. I just found myself bored in those 200 pages because the plot wasn’t really progressing anywhere. Furthermore, I felt that the outcome was far too predictable. I guessed the plot twist about Luca pretty early on, and I guess one of the killers pretty early on as well. Though the mystery was well explained, I just didn’t enjoy it because of the predictability and wish it could have been more creative.
Overall I thought Daughter of the Burning City was a solid debut and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Foody’s work. I really liked the characters in this, but felt the plot, world-building and pacing were a let down, though I think with some practice and improvement, Foody can create more awesome fantasy novels with more solid plots. I would still recommend you check this out because it’s a fun story with a great cast of characters and such an awesome setting.
Other Reviews for Daughter of the Burning City:
- Check out this review from an aroace reader.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,